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Two Thousand Year Old Zinc Supplements Discovered in Shipwreck

The discovery of ancient medicines in archaeology, while extremely rare, can shed light on the development of medicine over the centuries. In a historic find, Italian researchers discovered zinc supplements in a ship that sank near Tuscany sometime around 130-140 BC.

The zinc supplements were sealed in oxygen-free metal tins and included a mixture of animal and plant lipids, pine resin, starch and linen fibers. They ranged in size from one to four centimeters.

The supplements match the descriptions of zinc tablets used to treat eye problems found in the writings of Theophrastus (who lived in 371-286 BC), Pliny the Elder (first century AD) and Dioscorides (first century AD. This finding provides concrete evidence that zinc supplements have been used for thousands of years to treat eye conditions.

The ship also contained ancient medical equipment, such as an iron probe and a bronze vessel that was probably used for bloodletting or for applying hot air to soothe aches.

An essential mineral, zinc has been linked to maintaining a healthy immune system, healing wounds, helping with growth, supporting the reproductive system, better eye health, and mood improvement in women.

Zinc can be found in many foods, including oysters, beef, crab, fortified cereals, lobster, beans, yogurt, nuts, milk, chicken, cheese, and oatmeal. You can also consume zinc in a supplement form but be careful not to take too much. Intakes of greater than 150 mg per day have been associated with negative side effects, such as a weakened immune system.

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