The Schistosoma in the Reliquary

The 800th anniversary of the birth of Saint Louis, King of France, in 2014 provided an opportunity to obtain a sample of his relics for "scientific identification". With all relics, the chain of custody and its backstory are critical for evaluation. Most of Louis' relics held in the Basilica of Saint-Denis were destroyed during the... Continue Reading →

Human Parasites of the Roman Empire

Last week photos of Roman toilets were splashed across the web breaking the news that the Romans were not a healthy as most people seem to have assumed. As with many public health interventions, the real value of a sanitation system is out of view (and out of mind) to most people. Its not the... Continue Reading →

A Migration Age Anglo-Saxon Leper

Paleomicrobiology and isotopic analysis has the ability to completely change what we know of past infectious diseases. A study published this month on a fifth century Anglo-Saxon skeleton is one of the most complete I have read. Lesions on skeletons found at Great Chesterfield in Essex, England, suggested possible leprosy. To confirm this diagnosis, they... Continue Reading →

An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections

Ron Barrett and George Armelagos. An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections. Oxford University Press, 2013 (e-book) This is not a traditional review. In keeping with this blog's function as my shared file cabinet, this post will be something like a précis /notes with a few of  my comments in italics. Medical anthropologists Ron Barrett and George Aremelagos... Continue Reading →

Molecular Confirmation of Yersinia pestis in 6th century Bavaria

Erasing any lingering doubts about the agent of the Plague of Justinian, a group of German biological anthropologists have shown conclusively that Yersinia pestis caused an epidemic in a 6th century Bavarian cemetery at Aschheim. Harbeck et al (2013) provide a convincing refutation of previous theories about the etiologic agent of the Plague of Justinian.... Continue Reading →

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