The fact that the arrival of Europeans to the New World in 1492 dramatically changed the ecological landscape has been widely accepted over the past 50 years. Suddenly, a shift across the Atlantic Ocean — corn for wheat, tomatoes for apples, tobacco for horses — meant that planets and animals were moving between continents for the first time.
This was also true for pathogens, according to historian Alfred W. Crosby. Diseases such as smallpox and measles, which the conquistadors brought to the Western Hemisphere, soon killed almost all the indigenous population. Instead, Europeans fell prey to syphilis, a venereal disease caused by indigenous humans. Crosby’s idea of exchanging diseases was an interesting one and he told a special story, suggesting that with the arrival of syphilis in Europe, somehow justice was served.
The only problem is that the syphilis scenario is wrong, according to recent research by paleontologists, scientists who study skeletal remains for evidence of disease. After decades of research, paleontologists have determined that the bacteria that cause syphilis, Treponema pallidumIt already existed in the ancient world, long before explorer Columbus boarded his ship and sailed to Hispaniola.
Europeans suffered from syphilis long before they reached the Americas
Like skeletal remains, artworks can reveal what life was like at the time. Even manuscripts, while easy to interpret, can reveal evidence that Europeans suffered from syphilis long before they reached the Americas.
Archaeologists at a cemetery in West Sussex, UK, have unearthed the skeleton of a young man with deep wounds to his skull, collar bones, arms and legs, a typical combination of syphilis. He died in the sixth century.
In Austria, a medieval cemetery contains the remains of a six-year-old boy with deformed teeth consistent with a diagnosis Helix diseasepossibly a case of congenital syphilis, in bacteria Treponema pallidum It is transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth.
In Anatolia, western Turkey, the skeleton of a teenager revealed deformed teeth and physical injuries. A large number of infected bones indicates the presence of syphilis. The victim died in the 13th century, a few hundred years before Columbus’ voyage.
Genital syphilis has always existed in Europe
Evidence abound. Although the absolute number of cases is not large, cases still occur. Some evidence appears in the remains of people who lived more than 2,000 years ago, Phys.org shows.
but there is a problem. Affected bones and teeth appear to show evidence of pre-Columbian syphilis, but there is also a possibility that it may indicate another form of the disease. Treponema pallidum It occurs in several strains. The subspecies that causes syphilis are the most deadly. Two other subtypes of the bacteria cause less severe, albeit painful and unsightly forms called endemic syphilis and raspberry. It is not usually transmitted through sexual contact. At present, all three can be treated with antibiotics.
So how can we distinguish between the three subspecies and how can we prove that the reproductive form has been around in Europe for a long time?
Documentary and technical evidence can clarify the mystery. Of all the pathogens known to mankind only spiral It produces such different results depending on the climate and culture, and is an important clue to discovering evidence in manuscripts.
Medieval elites suffered from more cruel forms than ordinary people
This may explain the theory that the elites in the Middle Ages suffered from more ruthless forms of the common people. The way of life would have protected the elite from childhood infection, as opposed to the lower groups who were infected in crowded and filthy living environments. However, this childhood infection would have benefited immunity later in life.
One of the royals who likely died of syphilis was King Edward IV of England (1442-1483). One of his advisors wrote that the king died of a disease that is difficult to treat even for people of low status, a vague comment previously misunderstood by historians. However, his comment fits perfectly with the difference between endemic syphilis and genital syphilis, evidence indicating the presence of both diseases in 15th century England. King’s symptoms and his mixing confirm the diagnosis.
Evidence of syphilis in the ancient world can also be found in art. Doctors knew that syphilis could cause a collapsed nose, and medieval artists, starting in the 12th century, represented this deformity in their works.
We also recommend that you read:
One different gene can cause syphilis to go undetected for many years
Finally, there is hope for a syphilis vaccine
The mysterious death of the genius Eminescu or who wanted to drive him crazy?
Most medieval manuscripts on heroism and chivalry have been lost. What is weathered?