Direct evidence of the use of multiple drugs in Bronze Age Menorca (Western Mediterranean) from human hair analysis

Human hair dated to Late Prehistory is exceedingly rare in the Western Mediterranean. Archaeological excavations in the Bronze Age burial and cult cave of Es Càrritx, in Menorca (Balearic Islands) provided some human hair strands involved in a singular funerary rite. This finding offered the opportunity to explore the possible use of drug plants by Late Bronze Age people. Here we show the results of the chemical analyses of a sample of such hair using Ultra-High-Performance Liquid Chromatography-High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (UHPLC-HRMS). The alkaloids ephedrine, atropine and scopolamine were detected, and their concentrations estimated. These results confirm the use of different alkaloid-bearing plants by local communities of this Western Mediterranean island by the beginning of the first millennium cal BCE.

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