“Doctor’s orders,” the pharaohs may have said with a wink as they took swigs of wine.
At least 5,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians had begun a long-standing tradition of infusing their libations with medicinal herbs, according to a new chemical analysis of residues on wine jugs.
The earliest written evidence for the practice comes from Egyptian papyri that date to 1850 B.C. The new find pushes archaeological evidence for medicinal wines back to 3150 B.C., the beginning of Egyptian history. The wine jar was found in the tomb of Scorpion I, one of the first pharaohs.
“It makes sense that it is part of this ongoing tradition that eventually starts to get recorded around 1850 B.C.,” Patrick McGovern, an archaeochemist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, told me.
McGovern is an expert on the origins and history of drinks that give a buzz. His new book, Uncorking the Past, is due out this fall.