1,300-Year-Old Antidepressant Pills Discovered in Ancient Center for Drug Production in Turkey
Seven hundred small glass and ceramic bottles containing ancient medicines have been discovered during excavations in Turkey. The medications include 1,300-year-old antidepressant pills and drugs for heart disease.
The discovery was made in Bathonea, an ancient Greek city on the banks of Küçükçekmece Lake in Istanbul’s Avcılar district, which dates back to the 2nd century BC.
The ruins of Bathonea (panoramio.com)
According to Hurriyet Daily News, there were a lot of mortars, pestles and a big cooker around the bottles. The researchers believe that the site was a center for drug production. Archeologists also found many spatulas and other medical tools. The researchers believe that the discovery come from the 7th century AD or even earlier. The laboratory may have been destroyed during the attack of the Avar Empire in Istanbul in 626 AD, as evidenced by a fire layer dating to between 620 AD and 640 AD.
“During these dates, there were attacks against Istanbul from Thrace,” said Professor Şengül Aydıngün, the head of the Bathonea excavations [via Hurriyet Daily News]. “There was also a serious attack from the Avar Empire in 626 AD. There is a big group of structures in the field of Bathonea. This structure group was almost demolished by the fire. And the bottles remained under this fire layer. This may be evidence of the Avar attack.”
The Avar attack on Istanbul (Tarihiistanbul.com)
Thousands of pieces of ceramics are a precious discovery, but most of the attention was on the medications, laboratory and tools. The small bottles called ungentaria had been discovered between 2013 and 2015. Most of them were donated to a local museum, but a few pieces were sent to laboratories for testing.
According to the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the medications discovered in the bottles were Methanone (an antidepressant) and Phenanthrene (used for heart disease). Both were made from local plants, which were also found during the excavation, and which are known to be the source of many drugs.
Greek ceramic unguentaria, lamp, and miniature vessel from Volimos, Dated to the Hellenistic period, 3rd c. BC (Dan Diffendale / Flickr)
It seems that people saw the importance of healing psychological illness since ancient times. It is not the first discovery of ancient antidepressants. As Mark Miller from Ancient Origins reported in April 1, 2015:
''Ancient Greeks, Vikings, Caucasians, prehistoric Siberians and Mongolians, and ancient Chinese emperors were all taken with the medicinal properties of the wild herb Rhodiola rosea (golden root or roseroot). Many centuries after it was introduced to Siberia, people there still say those who drink roseroot tea will live to be 100. Now new research has shown that this ancient medicinal herb may also be effective in treating depression.
A 15th century Byzantine copy of De Materia Medica by the ancient Greek doctor Dioscorides that mentions Rhodiola rosea as beneficial. (PHGCOM photo/Wikimedia Commons)
Since 1960, more than 180 studies have been done to gauge the efficacy of roseroot in promoting health. Now medical researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have done the “first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, comparison trial of oral R. rosea extract versus conventional antidepressant therapy of mild to moderate” depression. This latest research, along with previous studies, found that the ancients were right to be enamored with roseroot: It works not just in reducing some symptoms of depression, but it also gave “significant reductions in fatigue, depression, and performance ratings” in two groups tested in another study.
In ancient times, Siberians found the root so valuable they would trade it for wine, fruit and honey, according to MDidea.com .''
Top image: Modern-day antidepressant pills (Ashley Rose / Flickr)