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Pharoah's Wine Jar Yields Medicinal Secrets
Date:4/13/2009

Egyptians may have been using herb-spiked drink for healing 5,000 years ago

MONDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- The old adage, "take a glass of wine for thy stomach's sake," may have been heeded more than 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, archaeologists report.

Sophisticated analysis of residues found in wine jars left in the tomb of Scorpion 1, perhaps the first pharaoh, shows that the wine had been steeped in herbs including balm, coriander, mint and sage, according to a report published in this week's issue April 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That tomb dates back to 3150 B.C., explained lead researcher Patrick E. McGovern, a senior research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology.

"This is the earliest evidence we have of herbs being added to wine," McGovern said. "The earliest previous evidence we had was an alcoholic beverage from China from around 1200 B.C. That one had possibly wormwood or chrysanthemum in it, or a tree resin."

There is no solid proof that the herbs were added for medicinal purposes, but the evidence points in that direction, McGovern said. "It could have been for flavoring, but we have a later literary tradition in Egypt of herbs added for medicinal purposes," he said. "It gets recorded in a medical papyrus in 1800 B.C., and now this goes back more than a thousand years earlier."

McGovern has been working on material from the tomb for many years. Scorpion 1 was entombed in Abydos, then the religious capitol of Egypt, about 150 miles south of Cairo.

"His tomb is one of the most spectacular from the earliest period," McGovern said. "It contained about 700 wines jars as well as food and clothing."

McGovern had done previous analyses of the same wine jar. The new report was based on highly sophisticated studies of residues in the jar, using techniques such as liquid chr
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