Pliny the Elder: Ancient Pioneer of Medical Marijuana

Pliny the Elder: Ancient Pioneer of Medical Marijuana

It’s rare when news headlines concern someone who died nearly 2,000 years ago, but that’s what happened last month, when a scientific team in Italy reported results of their study finding that the skull in a Rome museum really is that of Pliny the Elder, the immortal naturalist of the ancient Roman world.  As the New York Times reported, the skull had been sitting for decades in the Museo Storico Nazionale Dell’Arte Sanitaria, or National Historical Museum of Medical Arts, described as a “treasure trove of medical curiosities.” It had been unearthed in an excavation in 1900 on the shore of the Bay of Naples near the ruins of Pompeii, along with some Roman-era jewelry and regalia. As Pliny was killed in the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, and was said to have met his death on that fabled shoreline, there was inevitably speculation.  The landowner who discovered the skull seems to have leveraged it for personal notoriety as the man who found the remains of Pliny. After changing hands a few times, it wound up in the museum some 70 years ago, It was first plugged as “Pliny the Elder’s skull,” then, less ambitiously, as “skull from the excavations of Pompeii and attributed to Pliny.” The forensic study, which was launched in 2017, used DNA sequencing and an analysis of cranial shape to determine that the skull fits what we know from history about Pliny’s general profile. Andrea Cionci, leader of the study, dubbed Project Pliny, told the…

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