Majolica Jar


A single item relating to health and medicine was recovered from the site SCW17 is a complete profile of a drug jar. It is 154mm in height with a rim diameter of 87mm. It has a white overall glaze with a blue painted central panel that includes the lettering ‘V. ALBUM.CAM’ supported by an ‘Indian Head’. This would be the name of the medicinal compound contained within the vessel, Unguentum Album Camphoratum, or camphorated white ointment. The recipe in the Amsterdam Pharmacopoeia of 1636 states that it was made from rose oil, white wax, lead carbonate and ground camphor. This would have been made into a fine cooling drying ointment for easing pains and itching within wounds and ulcers. “Camphor is a naturally occurring compound with a long history of medicinal use” it is readily absorbed through the skin, where it selectively stimulates nerve endings sensitive to cold, producing a warm sensation when vigorously applied, or a cool sensation when applied gently. This effect also induces a slight local anaesthesia, and has an antimicrobial secondary effect.