Around 130 B.C., a ship, identified as the Relitto del Pozzino, sank off Tuscany, Italy. Among the artifacts found on board in 1989 were glass cups, a pitcher and ceramics, all of which suggested that the ship was sailing from the eastern Mediterranean area.
Its cargo included a chest that contained various items related to the medical profession: a copper bleeding cup and 136 boxwood vials and tin containers. Inside one of the tin vessels, archaeologists found several circular tablets, many still completely dry.
"The tablets were less than an inch in diameter and about a third to a half inch thick," said Robert Fleischer, an evolutionary geneticist with the Smithsonian's Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics in Washington, D.C.
Using DNA sequencing, Fleischer has identified some of the plant components in the tablets: carrot, radish, parsley, celery, wild onion, cabbage, alfalfa, oak and hibiscus.
This tradition is alive and well. Shirley Price organic lavender is grown only 20 miles from the museum in Tuscany which preserves the remains of this naval medical chest.
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