Toil and Trouble: Scientists Analyze 17th Century "Anti-Witches Brew"

By Allison Bond | June 5, 2009 11:47 am

witchThink you know all there is to know about the witches of the 17th century? Well, don’t be so cocky. The recent discovery of a so-called “witchcraft bottle” in England has shed new light on the beliefs of that period, thanks to CT scans, chemical analysis and other tests.

While around 200 other witchcraft bottles have been found, all of them were open and eroding—until this one, that is. This bottle held, among other things, a dozen iron nails, hair, fingernail clippings, a piece of leather shaped like a heart and pierced with a nail, what could be navel fluff, and brimstone, also known as sulfur… all bathed in human urine. Scientists say the bottle shows that people of the time actually followed bizarre-sounding recipes to combat witchcraft, such as one requiring a man to “take a quart of your Wive’s urine, the paring of her Nails, some of her Hair, and such like, and boyl them well in a Pipkin.”

Lab tests revealed that the nail clippings showed little wear, so the person they once belonged to likely was well-off. And scientists know the person who produced the urine was a smoker because it contained nicotine.  This discovery is both extremely cool, and a little spooky—and it makes us wonder if future archaeologists will find our daily lives bizarre, too.

Related Content:

Discoblog: Archaeological Surprise: Grave Site Full of Phallic Figurines
Discoblog: Caribbean Bowls Reveal Ancient…Drug Habit?
Image: flickr / boxspring

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