Where Does Leprosy Come From?

Leprosy may have originated in Europe -- not Asia, as previously thought. An international team of researchers sampled about 90 different skeletons bearing the telltale deformations of leprosy. The skeletons were unearthed in Europe, and have been dated to between 400 and 1400 CE.

From the bones, the scientists reconstructed ten new genomes of medieval Mycobacterium leprae, in addition to the one or two strains already known to have been circulating in medieval Europe. All the strains of the leprosy bacterium were in fact present in medieval Europe, which strongly suggests leprosy originated closer to Europe than previously thought. Higher diversity is present near an area of origin - this is true of languages, humans, and apparently, leprosy. The new results suggest that leprosy came from someplace closer to Europe, like south-eastern Europe or western Asia.

The oldest strain was detected in a skeleton found in Great Chesterford, Essex, in southeast England, which has been dated to between 415 and 545 CE. This is the same strain found in modern-day red squirrels!

Extensively decorated with modeled imagery, duct flutes of Veracruz are characterized by one or two connected sounding tubes. This flute has a peccary -- a distant relative of the pig -- at its center. Veracruz flutes are notable for having clay pellets inside their tubular chambers. The small clay balls produce an eerie, warbling sound when the flute is played. Circa 600s to 900s CE, Veracruz Culture.

Early Medieval Gravestones Testify To An Irish Monastery’s Importance

Founded by St. Ciarán in the 500s CE, Clonmacnoise is one of Ireland’s most famous early monasteries. Its high status is reflected in the medieval documents recording numerous instances of Irish kings and important ecclesiastics being buried at the site.     Today, we know those were not fabrications of ambitious monks, because we have their beautiful grave-stones. Clonmacnoise has over 700 grave-stones, in fact. It is the largest collection of early medieval grave-slabs found anywhere in Atlantic Europe. People must really have wanted to be buried there!     Click through the image gallery to see a small selection of some of the grave-stones.

Not sure what this is, but it looks cool! Four legs, with three-toed feet, curly ears and a curly tail, this fantastic creature appears to be wearing a collar around its neck.     Veracruz culture, Mexico, circa 600s to 900s CE.

The Americas' Linguistic Diversity

There were dozens of language families, each the equivalent of the Indo-European family, before 1492. This map is a "simplified" one. In today's California, for instance, languages that are spoken by neighboring tribes are as different as French and Chinese.     Why did the Americas develop such linguistic diversity? Many linguists suspect that at least some of these separate families date back to separate migrations of different tribes from Asia who originally spoke unrelated languages. Linguistic and archaeological data hint at more than one migration from Asia into the Americas, all of them through Alaska.     Extra Fun Fact: see “Eskimo-Aleut” in northern North America? It is not colored because there is no evidence those languages are related to any other indigenous American languages!

Italian Man Loses His Arm, Replaces It With A Knife!

About 1,500 years ago, a man in his late forties lost his arm. It was often a death sentence at the time. People died from amputations quickly, from bloodloss, or slowly, from infection. We do not know how or why, but this lucky man survived the injury and lived one-armed for years and perhaps decades. Well, not completely one-armed. He replaced his lost right forearm with a knife, buckled to his arm with leather straps. When he died the knife was buried with him. Leaving a very interesting find for modern archaeologists! He was found at a necropolis near Verona in northern Italy. The necropolis was in use between the 500s and 700s CE, and has so far yielded 164 tombs holding 222 individuals (plus a burial pit containing two greyhound dogs and a horse).  

This Is A Whistle?!

To answer my own question, yes! It's a whistle! Not sure if it still works though.... According to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), this is a Mayan whistle in the form of a sitting woman. Discovered on Jaina Island, off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, it is believed have been crafted between 600 and 900 CE. Pretty neat!

The Peak of the Sasanid Empire

This snapshot shows the greatest territorial extent of the Sasanians, circa 620 to 627 CE.

It was the last great empire in the Middle East before Islam. The Sasanians were locked into a struggle with the Byzantine Empire, which made both weaker when the Islamic army swept out of the Arabian peninsula.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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