Columbus not to blame for syphilis in Europe, says expert

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LONDON - Christopher Columbus and his crew have long been blamed for bringing the sexually transmitted disease syphilis from the Americas to Europe after their historic first voyage.

In 1493 they returned to Spain bringing news of lands across the Atlantic and the first cases of the potentially deadly disease thanks to their exploits abroad, it was believed.

But now scientists have found evidence that the disease existed in Europe long before Columbus was even born.

Skeletons unearthed in a cemetery at a church in East London show signs of the disease up to two centuries before the explorer first set sail, reports the Daily Mail.

Archaeologists excavating bones from St. Mary Spital in East London found rough patches on skulls and limbs of some of the skeletons, telling evidence of syphilis.

Brian Connell, an expert from the Museum of London who studied the bones, said he had no doubt that the skeletons were buried before Columbus’ voyage. Radiocarbon dating of the samples is estimated to be 95 percent accurate.

Previous findings of early syphilitic bones have been inconclusive.

“We’re confident that Christopher Columbus is simply not a feature of the emergence and timing of the disease in Europe,” Connell told The Times. “This puts the nail in the coffin of the Columbus theory.”

Two of the syphilitic skeletons unearthed at St Mary Spital are from 1200-1250 while

the other five are from 1250-1400.

Filed under: Science and Technology

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