Patrick E. McGoverna, Armen Mirzoianb, and Gretchen R. Halla (Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA)
published on 25 June 2013
Chemical analyses of ancient organics absorbed into pottery jars from the beginning of advanced ancient Egyptian culture, ca. 3150 B.C., and continuing for millennia have revealed that a range of natural products—specifically, herbs and tree resins—were dispensed by grape wine. These findings provide chemical evidence for ancient Egyptian organic medicinal remedies, previously only ambiguously documented in medical papyri dating back to ca. 1850 B.C. They illustrate how humans around the world, probably for millions of years, have exploited their natural environments for effective plant remedies, whose active compounds have recently begun to be isolated by modern analytical techniques.
Before the rise of modern medicine and likely extending back into the Paleolithic period, humans treated disease and physical ailments by experimenting with natural products derived from plants, other animals, and minerals. Fruit-bearing trees, which appeared around 100 million years ago (Mya), offered unparalleled access to sugar and ethanol. The latter had already established themselves as prime energy sources in the animal kingdom. The sweet liquid that oozes out of ruptured ripened fruit provides the ideal conditions of water and nutrients for yeast on their surfaces to multiply and convert the sugar into alcohol.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 5, (2009) vol. 106, no. 18