Mercury to cure diseases in the Middle Ages

Mercury to cure diseases in the Middle Ages

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A new technology proves that doses of mercury were delivered to the sick. This happened to a boy between 10 and 13 years old buried in the Ribe medieval town, in Denmark 800 years ago. His death was agonizing due to the doses of mercury given in order to cure the disease.

According to a new technology developed by chemist Kaare Lund Rasmussen of the University of Southern Denmark, details about the moments before a person's death can be obtained. Mercury arouses the interest of archaeologists, since many cultures around the world were in contact with this substance.

It is not possible to know the disease that the child suffered, but it can be assured that he received large doses of mercury a couple of months and days before he died”States Kaare Lund, who justified the attitude of the parents in order to try to cure the child thinking that the mercury contained the necessary medicine to achieve it.

The expert adds that the analyzed remains do not come from the individual's bones, but from the land of his graveSo these are inorganic components that came into contact with the body found and that were not transformed by natural water because they are not soluble, so they have remained immobile in the deposit. Therefore, if an organ in the body contained doses of mercury, even if this organ has faded over time, the mercury still remains in the field, which contains valuable information material for researchers.

Mercury has been used throughout the world in various applications. For example, we highlight its use as a pigment that illuminated manuscripts, or as an ingredient for medicine. So, although mercury is not common in certain regions, archaeologists hope to find traces of this material.

Also the type of organ exposed to mercury indicates the approximate time that this compound was supplied. Thus, while bones can only provide information on such exposure in a matter of years before death, organs such as the lungs offer more precise information and reveal exposure in just a few months before death.

Despite the high toxicity of mercury, which caused many poisoning deaths, its use was frequent at the beginning of the 20th century as medicine.

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