“It smelled of tobacco. It was basically just snus,” Karin Lindeblad, from the consulting firm Arkeologerna, told The Local.
The box was found during the excavation of the old inner harbour in the Swedish city of Norrköping, 160km south of Stockholm.
“We found it under one-and-a half metres of clay, where there was no oxygen,” Lindeblad said. “So the brass snus box was still golden, it was still shimmering. It was really well-preserved.”
The box was sealed shut, and it was only when a conservator at the National History Museum in Stockholm opened it, that the team discovered how well-preserved the tobacco inside was.
“I had expected that it would just be filled with mud and silt. I didn’t expect anything to be in it at all, so it’s very surprising,” Lindeblad said.
She admitted that she, like nearly one-in-eight Swedes, was herself addicted to snus tobacco, which is taken by slipping a small wad of tobacco under your lip. “I stopped smoking and then you never get rid of it,” she laughed.
The product is made by blending powdered tobacco powder with salt, water and spices, and has been made in Norrköping since at least 1760, about ten years before the archeologists believe the box was dropped into the estuarial mud.
Lindblad believes the initials PGW refer to Pehr Gustaf Wadström, a businessman and industrialist, who owned one of the wharves in Norrköping.
The team plan to test the snus to see what ingredients went into it, but Lindeblad said no one planned to try it themselves.