STATES CHRONICLE – Researchers revealed a medieval skeleton which could reveal more about the spread of leprosy. Back in the 12th century, a young man who engaged into a religious pilgrimage in England was buried in a hospital cemetery after he died of leprosy. After analyzing his remains, scientists revealed that the man received a traditional pilgrim burial, being honored for his religiousness.
Simon Roffey, who is the lead author of the study and also a lecturer in archaeology at the University of Winchester in the United Kingdom, claimed that he hopes that their discovery will challenge the false beliefs that stated that leprosy sufferers were excluded by their community, being treated as outcasts.
The medieval skeleton which was uncovered indicated that it was buried like a pilgrim, being inhumed with a scallop shell which stands for the symbol of a pilgrim who was engaged in a journey to the shrine of St. James in Spain. This burial indicates that modern people lived with some misconceptions regarding how leprosy sufferers were treated by members of their community, believing that they deserve to die because they are sinful.
The new findings challenge those old and false ideas, proving everybody that they were wrong. Based on the data revealed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leprosy represents a bacterial condition which causes incurable, suppurating skin wounds and also nerve damage. Apparently, the disease is not as contagious as we may think it is. The CDC noted that a person could contract the illness only if he or she makes repeated contact with fluids from the nose or the mouth of the infected individual.
Nevertheless, due to the lack of information, people in the past were terrified by this disease, seeing it as being very contagious and incurable. This skin condition dated back approximately four thousand years ago. Other studies indicate that the bacteria’s genome which caused the disease did not alter significantly during that period. Researchers also added that this might also account for the decline of leprosy’s incidence since it reached outrageous peaks in the medieval period.
Roffey together with his colleagues examined the medieval skeleton to find out more about the disease. The man was found buried in the cemetery of the leprosy hospital known as St. Mary Magdalen, Winchester.
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