"Once we adjusted for the marine signature, all of the skeletons that showed definite signs of treponemal disease appeared to be dated to after Columbus returned to Europe," Harper said, findings detailed in the current Yearbook of Physical Anthropology.
"What it really shows to me is that globalization of disease is not a modern condition," Armelagos said. "In 1492, you had the transmission of a number of diseases from Europe that decimated Native Americans, and you also had disease from Native Americans to Europe."
"The lesson we can learn for today from history is that these epidemics are the result of unrest," Armelagos added. "With syphilis, wars were going on in Europe at the time, and all the turmoil set the stage for the disease. Nowadays, a lot of diseases jump the species barrier due to environmental unrest."
"The origin of syphilis is a fascinating, compelling question," Zuckerman said. "The current evidence is pretty definitive, but we shouldn't close the book and say we're done with the subject. The great thing about science is constantly being able to understand things in a new light."
- History's Most Overlooked Mysteries
- 10 Deadly Diseases That Hopped Across Species
- Top 5 Misconceptions About Columbus
Copyright 2011 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.