Fern plant infusion keeps the doctor away in Medieval Europe

The remains of a medieval skeleton has shown the first physical evidence that a fern plant could have been used for medicinal purposes in cases such as alopecia, dandruff and kidney stones.

Fern plant infusion keeps the doctor away in Medieval Europe
Asplenium trichomanes is a common species that grows in rocky areas worldwide
[Credit: University of York]

The skeleton of a male aged between 21 and 30 years found buried in the medieval necropolis of Can Reiners on the Spanish Balearic Islands, had traces of starch grains consistent with cereal plants, such as wheat and rye, and significantly, a collection of cells in which spores are formed from the underside of a fern leaf.

There is no evidence to suggest that the fern leaf was part of human diets at any point in recorded history, but there are written descriptions dating as far back as the first century AD that suggest the fern leaf was used to alleviate the symptoms of particular non-life-threatening conditions.

Folk medicine stories collected in various books suggest that the fern was used across Europe, but this is the first time any evidence has been found in actual human remains and the first time the particular species of fern has been identified.

Dr Elena Fiorin, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology, said: “Through analysis of the dental calculus of the skeleton, which we believe dates back to the ninth or 10th century, we were able to determine that the cells were from fern plant, asplenium trichomanes, a common species that grows in rocky areas worldwide.

“These ferns have been used by herbalists, surgeons, doctors, and other healers for centuries across Europe, but until now we have only had written documents that describe their use.

Fern plant infusion keeps the doctor away in Medieval Europe
The skeleton was a male aged between 21 and 30 years of age
[Credit: University of York]

“The finding from the dental remains of this skeleton show just how much information we can get from dental calculus analysis. It demonstrates that in this region of Spain, communities were aware of the medicinal properties of some plants and how to administer them to get the desired result.”

Records show that a liquid infusion was made by pouring water into fresh or dried fern leaves, and sometimes the concoction was flavoured with orange flowers or sweetened sugar or honey.

Herbal texts show that the plants were exclusively used to cure particular diseases, most commonly what we would now recognise as dandruff, a common cold, kidney stones, and alopecia. There is also reference to the plant being used to stimulate menstrual flow in women.

Although there is no way of telling from the skeletal remains of the young male what he was treated for, it is likely he drank a fern leaf infusion to potentially cure a condition of the skin, urinary tract, or as a decongestant.

Dr Fiorin said: “The research demonstrates the use of ferns as healing plants in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages. We now have the potential to look at other dental remains for similar properties that might tell us more about the use of medicinal herbs in the past.

“These ferns were employed, and are still used in Europe today, to cure a variety of diseases and through the archaeological record we can start to see how human beings have used the natural environment to assist in healthcare throughout our evolution.”

The research is published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

Author: Samantha Martin | Source: University of York [November 05, 2018]



Fireball over Missouri on November 2 – Videos

Over 375 fireball reports from 12 states

The AMS has received over 375 reports so far about of a fireball event seen above Missouri on November 2nd, 2018 around 7:25pm CDT (November 3rd 00:25 Universal Time). The fireball was seen primarily from Missouri but was also seen from Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

If you witnessed this event and/or if you have a video or a photo of this event, please
Submit an Official Fireball Report

If you want to learn more about Fireballs: read our Fireball FAQ.

Witness location and estimated ground trajectory – AMS Event #4235-2017


The preliminary 3D trajectory computed based on all the reports submitted to the AMS shows that the Fireball was traveling from North East to South West and ended its flight somewhere North of Bradeleyville, MO.

Estimated 3D trajectory – AMS Event #4235-2017


The event has been caught by several cameras including an AMS Allskycam operated by Dana Jenkerson from Kansas

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Recreating the sound of the Islamic past of the Mosque of Cordoba

How did words or the rain sound inside the Mosque of Cordoba in the time of Abd al-Rahman I? Today, thanks to virtual simulation tools, it is possible to know the sound filed of spaces that no longer exist. This field of work is known as “Acoustic Archaeology” by some researchers. Working in this field, researchers from the Higher Technical School of Architecture at the University of Seville have carried out a study in which they have determined the variation of the acoustic parameters, such as reverberation, clarity or definition of the Mosque of Seville currently.

Recreating the sound of the Islamic past of the Mosque of Cordoba
Credit: University of Seville

Faced with the visual homogeneity of the interior of the Islamic mosque, the results obtained in the acoustic study allow us to confirm that the sound perception varies by area. This is due to the successive expansions that the temple has experienced during its history.
“The mosque founded by Abd al-Rahman I responded acoustically to Muslim liturgical requirements, providing a living space that favoured their majesty. Later expansions gave a formal appearance of superposition on the pre-existing space. However, notable sound difference were produced in the interior space. This, united with the increase in depth caused by the expansion of Abd al-Rahman II, meant a reduction in the acoustic quality of the areas furthest away from the qibla wall”, explains the University of Seville professor Juan José Sendra.

With the expansion of Al-Hakam II, two acoustically juxtaposed mosques were obtained. The last lateral expansion, by Al-Mansur, in which even the mihrab was decentred with respect to the new layout, was separated from the rest of the building, with a clear degradation in the quality of verbal communication.

Recreating the sound of the Islamic past of the Mosque of Cordoba
Credit: University of Seville

The Christian era

The Christian transformations of the Mosque, to make it suitable for use as a cathedral, substantially modified the Muslim space. Therefore, the experts state that in the modern day space of the Mosque-Cathedral is a “complex architectural unit”, with a multiplicity of sound spaces, the fruit of all the spatial transformations that have taken place, each different according to the spatial archetype, be it Muslim or Christian.

Sound spaces

The research group ‘Architecture, Heritage and Sustainability: Acoustics, Lighting, Optics and Energy’ (‘Arquitectura, Patrimonio y Sostenibilidad: Acústica, Iluminación, Óptica y Energía’) of the University of Seville has spent more than a decade working in this field of study. In recent years, two Plan Estatal I+D+I (State R+D and innovation) Projects on Spanish cathedrals, mainly Andalusian, stand out.

Recreating the sound of the Islamic past of the Mosque of Cordoba
Credit: University of Seville

Various articles have been published, from different perspectives, which analyse the sound in the cathedrals of Seville, Granada, Malaga, Cordoba and Jaen. Specifically, in the case of Seville Cathedral, articles have been published that have analysed both the acoustic-spatial variety of the cathedral space, as well as the influence certain special spatial configurations have had on its acoustics, for example, when there is a big concert, or of the temporary architectural features present for certain religious celebrations. The present study is published in Publicado en Applied Acoustics.
Currently, they are also working on publishing a book that intends to decodify the complex and fragmented space of the Mosque-Cathedral today, via analysis of its process of evolution from the first mosque of Abd al-Rahman I until the present day, with the aim of recovering a lost sound memory.

Source: University of Seville [November 05, 2018]