Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 91–98

Drug preparation in evidence? An unusual plant and bone assemblage from the Pompeian countryside, Italy

  • Marina Ciaraldi

DOI: 10.1007/BF01300059

Cite this article as:
Ciaraldi, M. Veget Hist Archaebot (2000) 9: 91. doi:10.1007/BF01300059


In 1996 a farmhouse (villa rustica) was excavated near Pompeii (Naples, southern Italy). The villa had the typical characters of other farmhouses of the same period (ca A.D. 79) found in the area. The content of one of thedolia (storage vats) found in the cellar is discussed here and an interpretation of the assemblage is provided. The deposit found at the bottom of the storage vat produced a high percentage of seeds of plants known for their medicinal properties, such asPapaver somniferum (opium poppy). Associated with the residue there were also bones of reptiles and amphibians. It is suggested that the assemblage may represent the residue of a medicinal preparation. Its content includes many plants used in the preparation of ancient drugs calledMithridatium andTheriac. Further indirect archaeological evidence that supports this hypothesis will also be discussed.

Key words

Pompeii Medicinal plants Mithridatium Theriac Dye plants 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marina Ciaraldi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Archaeological SciencesUniversity of BradfordBradfordUK
  2. 2.BUFAU, Department of Ancient History and ArchaeologyUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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