Greco-Roman mineral (litho)therapeutics and their relationship to their microbiome: the case of the red pigment miltos

E. Photos-Jones, C.W. Knapp, D. Venieri, G.E. Christidis, C. Elgy, E. Valsami-Jones, I. Gounaki, N.C. Andriopoulou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper introduces a holistic approach to the study of Greco-Roman (G-R) lithotherapeutics. These are the minerals or mineral combinations that appear in the medical and scientific literature of the G-R world. It argues that they can best be described not simply in terms of their bulk chemistry/mineralogy but also their ecological microbiology and nanofraction component. It suggests that each individual attribute may have underpinned the bioactivity of the lithotherapeutic as an antibacterial, antifungal or other. We focus on miltos, the highly prized, naturally fine, red iron oxide-based mineral used as a pigment, in boat maintenance, agriculture and medicine. Five samples (four geological (from Kea, N. Cyclades) and one archaeological (from Lemnos, NE Aegean)) of miltos were analyzed with physical and biological science techniques. We show that: a. Kean miltos and Lemnian earth/miltos must have been chemically and mineralogically different; b. Lemnian miltos must have been more effective as an antibacterial against specific pathogens (Gram + and Gram − bacteria) than its Kean counterpart; c. two samples of Kean miltos, although similar, chemically, mineralogically and eco-microbiologically (phylum/class level), nevertheless, displayed different antibacterial action. We suggest that this may constituteproof of microbial ecology playing an important role in effecting bioactivity and, interestingly, at the more specific genus/species level. From the perspective of the historian of G-R science, we suggest that it may have been on account of its bioactivity, rather than simply its 'red-staining' effect, that miltos gained prominent entry into the scientific and medical literature of the G-R world.
LanguageEnglish
Pages179-192
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume22
Early online date5 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018

Fingerprint

Bioactivity
Pigments
Minerals
Microbiology
Mineralogy
technical literature
holistic approach
Boats
Pathogens
Ecology
science
Iron oxides
Agriculture
Medicine
ecology
historian
Bacteria
chemistry
Earth (planet)
agriculture

Keywords

  • Greco-Roman mineral medicinals
  • lithotherapeutics
  • miltos
  • minerals
  • microbiota
  • nanoparticles
  • bioactivity

Cite this

Photos-Jones, E. ; Knapp, C.W. ; Venieri, D. ; Christidis, G.E. ; Elgy, C. ; Valsami-Jones, E. ; Gounaki, I. ; Andriopoulou, N.C. / Greco-Roman mineral (litho)therapeutics and their relationship to their microbiome : the case of the red pigment miltos. In: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 2018 ; Vol. 22. pp. 179-192.
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Greco-Roman mineral (litho)therapeutics and their relationship to their microbiome : the case of the red pigment miltos. / Photos-Jones, E.; Knapp, C.W.; Venieri, D.; Christidis, G.E.; Elgy, C.; Valsami-Jones, E.; Gounaki, I.; Andriopoulou, N.C.

In: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Vol. 22, 31.12.2018, p. 179-192.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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