Interview with classicist Prudence Jones.
USA TODAY asked classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair (N.J.) State University to comment on her Classical World study suggesting the ancient Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII, may have indeed cooked up a cocktail consisting of a pearl dissolved in vinegar, long seen as a Roman myth by scholars. Her responses, by email:
Q. Any general lessons you draw from the study? The ancients seem a little more clever than they were credited by scholars, what do you take away from that?
A: Ancient peoples had a lot of practical scientific knowledge. From Egyptian mummification techniques to poisons to Cleopatra and the pearl, there was a great deal of experience with and observation of natural phenomena. While the reaction between a vinegar and a pearl might not have been called an acid-base reaction, there was a practical understanding that some substances could destroy others.