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Treponemal disease in the Old World? Integrated paleopathological assessment of a 9th-11th century skeleton from North-Central Spain

Lopez, Belen, Lopez-Garcia, Jose Manuel, Costilla, Serafin, Garcia- Vazquez, Eva, Dopico, Eduardo and Pardinas, Antonio 2017. Treponemal disease in the Old World? Integrated paleopathological assessment of a 9th-11th century skeleton from North-Central Spain. Anthropological Science 125 (2) , pp. 101-114. 10.1537/ase.170515

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Abstract

The hypothesis of an American origin of acquired (venereal) syphilis and other infectious diseases carried by Christopher Columbus’s crew has been considered for a long time as the most plausible one, and has been supported recently by considerable anthropological and molecular evidence. In this line of thought, it can be argued that Spain would have been the gateway of acquired syphilis, which quickly expanded after the return of Columbus in the late 15th century. However, the hypothesis that syphilis previously existed in Europe but went unrecognized has been also considered by many authors. The present work reports one Pre-Columbian putative case of venereal syphilis found in a Spanish necropolis and radiocarbon dated to the 9th-11th century. The complexities of carrying out accurate diagnoses in remains from archaeological timeframes are addressed by the combined use of paleopathological, medical and histological techniques. The results, which suggestively point toward a third-stage acquired syphilis, spark discussion about the need to revisit or complement the theories and hypothesis on the origin of syphilis in the light of a growing body of cases from European historical populations.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Medicine
Publisher: Anthropological Society of Nippon
ISSN: 0918-7960
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 May 2017
Date of Acceptance: 15 May 2017
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2019 21:36
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/100694

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