Pollen evidence of medicine from an embalming jar associated with Vittoria della Rovere, Florence, Italy

Karl Reinhard, Kelsey B. Lynch, Annie Larsen, Braymond Adams, Leon Higley, Marina Milanello do Amaral, Julia Russ, You Zhou, Donatella Lippi, Johnica J. Morrow, Dario Piombino-Mascali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Various samples of human viscera fragments, sponges, and cloth were collected from embalming jars belonging to members of the Medici family of Florence. One jar was labeled with the name Vittoria della Rovere, who died in March of 1694. This jar contained viscera fragments that were identified as a section of collapsed intestine. The intestine of the Vittoria della Rovere sample contained a large concentration of pollen belonging to the Myrtaceae family. The Myrtaceae pollen was sometimes observed in clusters during analysis, which is indicative of purposeful ingestion of flowers, buds, or a substance derived from floral structures. Thus, the high concentrations and clustering of Myrtaceae pollen grains recovered from this sample are reflective of dietary or medicinal practices. Scanning electron microscopy indicated that the pollen was from cloves, Syzygium aromaticum. It is most likely that Vittoria della Rovere consumed cloves for medicinal or culinary reasons shortly before death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-242
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Archaeopalynology
  • Embalming jars
  • Italy
  • Medici
  • Medicinal plants
  • Myrtaceae
  • Scanning electron microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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