Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Research Christmas 2008: Seasonal Fayre

Frankincense: systematic review

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2813 (Published 18 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2813

Rapid Response:

Archaeological Frankincense

Archeological frankincense

The article’s reference to the Magi is most apt. New agers will
wonder if the stuff they so expensively buy on the internet nowadays bears
any relation except in price, to the ancient frankincense that was offered
to little Baby Jesus, leaving aside any question of whether this is purely
a story to illuminate the kingship of Christ and may not have occurred in
any historical sense that we know. Having asked the question without even
intimating which of the current nu-Labour apparatchiks could represent
King Herod or the baby killers (1), the new age reader will be even more
surprised to learn that ancient frankincense dating from AD 400-500 (by
context, that is from the layer in which it was found) has been identified
and analysed. The techniques used were gas chromatography and mass
spectrometry and the results are to be found in Nature (2) Dec 1997, p667-
8, and were much the same as the datum modern samples that Evershed and
his colleagues had been given. Mathe did the same kind of analysis on
samples from Qana (3).

COI ORD was a late medical officer at Qasr Ibrim. The Nature article
was also referenced at: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/328/7445/930#57031

Oliver R Dearlove FRCA

1. Clearly an NT reference to the GMC’s highly successful policy to
demedicalise child protection

2. Evershed RP, van Bergen PF et al Archeological Frankincense Nature
1997, 390, 667-8. doi:10.1038/37741

3. Mathe C Connan J et al Analysis for Frankincense in Archeological
samples by gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Annali di Chimica 2007
vol 97 433-445. doi 10.1002/adic.200790029

Competing interests:
as script

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 December 2008
Oliver R Dearlove
Consultant Anaesthetist
Royal Manchester Children's Hospital