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‘Elixir of Immortality’ Uncovered in 2,000-Year-Old Chinese Tomb

Last fall, archaeologists working on an upper-class family tomb in Henan province, China, recovered a bronze pot with almost a gallon of 2,000-year-old liquid. It smelled of alcohol, so they assumed it was wine. Despite the rare vintage, apparently no one stepped forward to taste it.  

But as Xinhua points out in an update to this discovery, further lab work has shown that the substance isn’t wine at all. The liquid is primarily comprised of potassium nitrate and alunite—the main ingredients of a life-enriching elixir documented in ancient Taoist texts.

“It is the first time that mythical ‘immortality medicines’ have been found in China,” Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Luoyang, told Xinhua. “The liquid is of significant value for the study of ancient Chinese thoughts on achieving immortality and the evolution of Chinese civilization.”

The immediate question that raises is, why would an "immortality medicine" be left in a tomb? That's like closing the barn door after the horse escaped. Read more about the discovery at Gizmodo.

(Image credit: Xinhua/Li An)


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