Unique find: “leprosy” skull found on an island in the Caribbean

On an uninhabited island, a rare find was discovered – the skull of a man with leprosy who lived more than 200 years ago. The results of his research are published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

Found it back in 2003, but only now scientists have completed the study and made all possible conclusions on the find. This is one of the few indications that leprosy was rampant in the Caribbean two centuries ago.

Archaeologists from the University of Oregon examined the rare find. The skull was discovered on the island of Petit Mustique in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In those distant times, in the 17th-18th centuries, it was under the control of either Great Britain or France, alternately.

Documents tell about leprosy in those days, but there are very few of them. As well as finds from that period. It is only known that from about the middle of the 17th century, leprosy struck the countries of the Caribbean.

Now the island of Petit Mustique, where the skull was found, is uninhabited. Scientists believe that 200 years ago, at the beginning of the 19th century, it could have hosted a leper colony for patients who were isolated in order to avoid the spread of a terrible infection.

In the course of research using adiocarbon analysis, it was possible to establish that the skull belonged to a young woman infected with leprosy, approximately 20-25 years old, who died in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Scientists have found characteristic deformities in the upper jaw and nose, which are inherent in leprosy. This disease is caused by the mycobacterium Mycobacterium leprae, which mainly affects the skin and penetrates deep into the bones. The disease disfigures the face, arms, legs.

Now, according to WHO, leprosy is officially on the list of neglected diseases. But it still sometimes occurs in parts of South Asia, Brazil, East Africa, and the western Pacific.

In 1940, a drug was developed that made it possible to cope with leprosy. But two centuries ago, when the owner of the found skull lived, such a diagnosis was a sentence – isolation and death.





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