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Samos, NE Aegean

Samos in the eastern Aegean, has a mountainous landscape with some areas reaching 600m above sea level, and with extensive forest cover.  The substantial timber resources available to the islanders contributed to the development of an ancient shipbuilding industry, and as a result, Samos became a wealthy and powerful city state in the Archaic and Classical periods. Samian Earth was mentioned by Theophrastus (4th c BC) who stated that it was unsuitable for painting and was instead widely used for treating cloaks. Both Theophrastus and Dioscorides record that Samian Earth was white. Dioscorides also descibed two varieties: an eye-salve and an aster. Pliny further described the medical applications of the two types. It was used as an eye salve, but also as a treatment for stomach problems, epilepsy, diarrhea and urine retention. He also stated that Samian Earth was ideal for the shining of gold. Galen recorded the use of Samian Earth in bath houses and that it could be applied on the face and the body as a kind of soap. Galen also echoed Pliny's statements about the medicinal properties of the earth, and that when added to water it served as a remedy for fever and diarrhea. 

Images: geological map of Samos ; SEM image of smectite; samian bentonite; (all images from Photos-Jones and Hall 2011).

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