Archaeological finds question if Columbus introduced syphilis to Europe
First Voyage of Columbus. 'Departure for the New World', Columbus bids farewell to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Image: United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division Wikimedia CC0
Explorer Christopher Columbus, long blamed for bringing syphilis to Europe from the New World, may have gotten a bad rap, new research suggests.
“It seems that the first known syphilis breakout cannot be solely attributed to Columbus’ voyages to America,” said Verena Schünemann, a professor of paleogenetics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, the author of the study in a university news release. Researchers have uncovered traces of the bacteria that causes syphilis in archaeological human remains from Finland, Estonia, and the Netherlands that predate the explorations of Columbus. These findings were recently published in the journal Current Biology.
But the newly discovered diversity among the family of bacteria that causes syphilis may indicate that the disease originated or developed in Europe, potentially dispelling the long-held theory that Columbus and his sailors triggered the outbreak after one of four voyages between 1492 and 1502, researchers said.