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Old Bone Full of Old Drugs Found in Utrecht

Researchers from the Freie Universität Berlin working in the Netherlands recently found a little bone container full of drugs in a pile of 86,000 other bones they had found outside a farm in what is now the Dutch city of Utrecht. Initially the researchers missed the find because they weren’t looking for a first century C.E. bone full of drugs in a bone stack (that’s a needle in a haystack joke I was afraid you wouldn’t get, so I’m just pointing it out, but if you did get it, I’m sorry for not trusting you as a reader.).

The bone container, discovered when a birch pitch plug was dislodged, was full of black hebane seeds which back in the olden olden olden days was used for “relieving pain and helping with difficult pregnancies. Yet ingesting too much, one Roman author wrote, could lead to “alienation of [the] mind or madness”.”

Ancient Roman authors were clearly familiar with the plant. Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, and others wrote about black henbane, along with its closely related but less potent relatives, white and yellow henbane. These plants—in the form of ointments, potions, or burning smoke—were prescribed for everything from earaches and toothaches to flatulence and “pains of the womb.” Ancient scholars also warned against taking too much because of the potential for hallucinogenic effects; Pliny counseled physicians to avoid it entirely.


This quotation submitted without comment: “When you think about how much was in there, your imagination really goes wild.”

This video submitted without comment, as well:

Discussion  1 comment

Colter Mccorkindale

OK fine, I'll move to Utrecht. Because clearly it's all happening there.

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