Ancient Death-Smile Potion Decoded?

June 5, 2009 at 8:08 am | Posted in Lifescape | Leave a comment
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clipped from news.nationalgeographic.com

clipped from news.nationalgeographic.com
James Owen

Thousands of years before the Joker gassed comic book victims into a grinning death, Phoenician colonists on the island of Sardinia (map) were forcing smiles on the faces of the dead.

Now scientists say they know just how the ancient seafaring traders created the gruesome smiles some 2,800 years ago—not with a toxic gas like Batman’s nemesis but with a plant-based potion.

And someday that plant might be used to Botox-like effect, perhaps reducing rather than adding smile lines, the researchers speculate.

By the eighth century B.C., Homer had coined the term “sardonic grin”—”sardonic” having its roots in “Sardinia”—in writings referring to the island’s ritual killings via grimace-inducing potion.

Elderly people who could no longer care for themselves and criminals “were intoxicated with the sardonic herb and then killed by dropping from a high rock or by beating to death,” according to the new study.

sardonic grin-inducing compound in a plant called hemlock water-dropwort.

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