The authors of this fun-to-read study ('fun' used with reservation) are using archaeological evidence to understand ancient people's botanical medicines.
The purpose is to discover effective plant compounds that fight against cancer.
Their approach: Analyze the botanical residue in ancient Egyptian and Chinese wine vessels. Thyme and the herbs in the Artemisia family are identified as herbs present in the wine that possess some anti-cancer effects.
The authors write:
"Our ancestors might well have discovered
empirically some of the most potent and medicinally effective
plants in their environments, especially in periods of
experimentation as epitomized by the Neolithic Revolutions
beginning 10,000 years ago, after the end of the last Ice
Age. Plants, including herbs, tree resins, and other organics
were ideally dissolved in and dispensed by ancient fermented
beverages, such as wine and beer...By analyzing organic residues inside ancient containers, key natural products and organic compounds of potential medicinal value can be directly detected"
Well, maybe it's more fun to drink the medicine than study it.