Due to a regional drought in 2007, a previously-unexplored portion of the ancient Greek city of Bathonea, situated on the shore of Lake Kucukcekmece in modern-day Turkey, was exposed, and is now accessible for archaeologists to excavate. One of the major finds made through the dig at Bathonea was the verification of a previously-unsubstantiated story of an invasion from the Avar Empire in 646 A.D. But, wars long forgotten aside, the site also yielded evidence of far more beneficial activities: the large-scale production of medicines, including some that are still in use today.
The archaeologists studying the site found mortars, pestles and a large cooker along with medical tools and spatulas, indicating that production was being done on a comparatively large scale. “It seems that there was a drug production center around here,” explains excavation lead Sengul Aydingun.
Among the artifacts were 700 vials containing ancient medical compounds, allowing researchers to study first-hand the chemical makeup of medical treatments from that era, including two compounds that are used today.
“The analysis of remnants in the bottles was made by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey,” said Sengul Aydingun, head of the excavation. “They got the formulas of two drugs, methanone and phenanthrene. One of them is an antidepressant and the other is used in cases of heart disease.”
Aydingun believes that there are more artifacts still hidden under the lake, but finding them is being blocked by severe pollution plaguing Lake Kucukcekmece.
“About 90 percent of the water is filled with sewage, nuclear, and industrial waste,” according to Aydingun.
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