Explorer, conqueror, and, to some, the carrier of syphilis back to Europe from the New World, Columbus’ reputation seemed set in stone for eternity. Now some nifty forensic archeology may have exonerated the Admiral of the Ocean Sea from responsibility for the scourge that was first documented in Europe two years after his return from the West Indies. Researchers digging in an old church cemetery in East London say they’ve discovered bodies from the 13th and 14th Centuries which show tell-tale signs of syphilis like rough patches on the limbs and skulls of the corpses. Bodies interred with the disease two centuries before Columbus’ voyage would seem like exciting proof to Anglo scientists. However, the Brits managed to contain themselves: “We’re confident that Christopher Columbus is simply not a feature of the emergence and timing of the disease in Europe,” Brian Connell of the Museum of London said.
Now all that we know for sure is that the Europeans gifted diseases like smallpox and measles to the native populations but got precious little in return, that little island at the mouth of the Hudson River notwithstanding. Vikings are now the chief suspects for bringing the epidemic.
Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger