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Old 05 September 2010, 06:52 PM
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Default European STDs traced back to Columbus?

Heard this rumor from a friend- chlamydia, gonorrhea, and a bunch of other STDs were supposed to have been introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus's crew, by way of a single brothel in Italy.

I feel as if I've seen this myth on Snopes, but unfortunately, I couldn't find it.

Personally, I'm suspicious simply because I have strong doubts about the capacity for relatively small populations of Caribbean islanders to support virulent STDs.
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  #2  
Old 05 September 2010, 06:59 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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New World origin of syphilis may be impossible to prove or disprove, but the hypothesis is taken seriously by medical historians:

http://www.archaeology.org/9701/news.../syphilis.html

The wiki also has some discussion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syphilis

Nick
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Old 05 September 2010, 08:04 PM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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My understanding is that the new world origin of syphilis is pretty uncertain. There is evidence, though not conclusive proof, of syphilis in the old world prior to Columbus.

One thing that is pretty much 100% certain is that European diseases brought to the new world devastated the native populations. Many more American Indians were killed by European diseases than the other way around. This processes was largely ignored by the Europeans since it tended to happen out of their sight.

The kill off was so widespread that as the eastern Indian populations started to rebound, and they were pushed west by the rising number of Europeans in the east, the eastern Indians had little trouble displacing the historic, though now decimated, plains Indians. Many of the tribes often thought of as being Midwestern, or even western, were historical eastern tribes that migrated westward ahead of the whites. They had a couple decades worth of built up immunity from the worst of the European diseases and that was a huge advantage.
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Old 05 September 2010, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmy101_again View Post
One thing that is pretty much 100% certain is that European diseases brought to the new world devastated the native populations. Many more American Indians were killed by European diseases than the other way around. This processes was largely ignored by the Europeans since it tended to happen out of their sight.
You mean that it was ignored at the time, right? Because it's hardly ignored today.

Incidentally, there's also some thought that massive die-off of Great Plains indigents was responsible for the huge bison herds European explores and settlers encountered. As the Plains tribes were the primary predators of the American Bison at the time, their die-offs caused the Bison population to explode.
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Old 05 September 2010, 08:55 PM
jimmy101_again jimmy101_again is offline
 
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Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
You mean that it was ignored at the time, right? Because it's hardly ignored today.
Actually, that it was ignored for hundreds of years, particularly from about the time of Columbus until perhaps the early 20th century. Early anthropologists liked explanations for the decline in the native population that revolved around things the Europeans actively did, like enslaving and killing. Not things the Europeans had no idea they were doing, like transmitting diseases.

Toad I believe it is taken as fact that disease did most of the killing.
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Old 07 September 2010, 12:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
Heard this rumor from a friend- chlamydia, gonorrhea, and a bunch of other STDs were supposed to have been introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus's crew, by way of a single brothel in Italy.
Here's Voltaire's version :

Quote:
Pangloss made answer in these terms:"Oh, my dear Candide, you remember
Paquette, that pretty wench who waited on our noble Baroness; in her
arms I tasted the delights of paradise, which produced in me those hell
torments with which you see me devoured; she was infected with them, she
is perhaps dead of them. This present Paquette received of a learned
Grey Friar, who had traced it to its source; he had had it of an old
countess, who had received it from a cavalry captain, who owed it to a
marchioness, who took it from a page, who had received it from a Jesuit,
who when a novice had it in a direct line from one of the companions of
Christopher Columbus. For my part I shall give it to nobody, I am
dying."

Candide - 1758
... which proves that, true or not, the rumour has been around for a while.
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  #7  
Old 07 September 2010, 01:13 PM
Jay Tea Jay Tea is offline
 
 
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Ponder

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  #8  
Old 07 September 2010, 03:09 PM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
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Jay, I am afraid that for many of us, the point of your posting that picture is lost.

In the abstract, it is to be expected that two populations which were seaparated for tens of thousands of years would have developed diseases separately, and for which the populations where the disease developed would have resistance (or developed cultural norms which prevented spread, such as by shunning cannibalism), and for which the other population would have no such protections. Further, while the crossing of the diseases between the two populations would have dramatic effects in each newly exposed population, it makes sense that the larger of the two populations would have a greater array of diseases causing greater devastation to the smaller population. Based on these abstract considerations, you would expect the native New World population to have been extremely hard hit by Old World diseases, but for a few New World diseases to have had wide-ranging and severe effects in the Old World populations, but not nearly as destructive as what the New World experienced. And that appears to be what happened.

This pattern is very comparable to the exchange of vreatures when the land bridge between South and North America was formed. Placental mammals (and other creatures) spread from notrh to south, and marsupials traveled from south to north, but the placentals for the most part proved hardier, most likely because they had faced a wider range of challenges over the many years of their development on much larger land masses, such that the many marsupial species - predators, grazers, swampy creatures, etc. - were replaced by placentals, except the opossum, which expanded its niche to both continents.

Query - does anyone know how the Australian aborigines were affected disease-wise when they were first encountered by outside populations? Was the Indonesian archipelago enough of a conduit for the diseases of Eurasia and Africa to have been introduced gradually, rather than a sweep en masse?
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Old 08 September 2010, 04:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
This pattern is very comparable to the exchange of vreatures when the land bridge between South and North America was formed. Placental mammals (and other creatures) spread from notrh to south, and marsupials traveled from south to north, but the placentals for the most part proved hardier, most likely because they had faced a wider range of challenges over the many years of their development on much larger land masses, such that the many marsupial species - predators, grazers, swampy creatures, etc. - were replaced by placentals, except the opossum, which expanded its niche to both continents.

Query - does anyone know how the Australian aborigines were affected disease-wise when they were first encountered by outside populations? Was the Indonesian archipelago enough of a conduit for the diseases of Eurasia and Africa to have been introduced gradually, rather than a sweep en masse?
It's not quite as simple as that. If a virus or a bug can wipe out entire populations, then it has nowhere to live. So either there is a host to which the virus is not lethal (like it is the case with the plague or malaria) or eventually a subpopulation of humans become resistant enough not to die from the virus. This what happened with smallpox, as Europeans and the virus went onto an arms race for survival. In case of plague, instead it was rats.

The problem is that there literally was no other way of diseases entering Americas and Australia other than Europeans coming over with some rats that crashed the party - most of the people in Indonesia would die first and not transmit the disease naturally. So it was a disaster in the making.

My impression is that it didn't always worked in Europeans favor: plague is Central Asian, if my memory serves me right, cholera is Indian (and it kept Alexander from actually conquering it), and there are tons of infectious diseases specific to Africa and Americas. I think the big difference with the pox was the fact that it was actually endemic among the humans and didn't rely on a side host to survive. Other diseases are much more climate dependent or host dependent.

So who knows? Maybe, Africa is naturally selecting its way to TB and AIDS resistant rulers of the Earth of tomorrow.
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  #10  
Old 08 September 2010, 04:32 AM
ichabodius ichabodius is offline
 
 
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Scientists have detected the chemical signature of syphillis in the skeleton of an 11,000 year old bear found in Indiana:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/prev...lis/index.html
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  #11  
Old 08 September 2010, 05:22 PM
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Dr. Winston O'Boogie Dr. Winston O'Boogie is offline
 
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Bear

So the first human to get syphilis got it from nfbsking a bear?

Man, I have a lot more respect for Hoosiers now!
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  #12  
Old 09 September 2010, 12:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebbenth View Post
It's not quite as simple as that. If a virus or a bug can wipe out entire populations, then it has nowhere to live. So either there is a host to which the virus is not lethal (like it is the case with the plague or malaria) or eventually a subpopulation of humans become resistant enough not to die from the virus. This what happened with smallpox, as Europeans and the virus went onto an arms race for survival. In case of plague, instead it was rats.

The problem is that there literally was no other way of diseases entering Americas and Australia other than Europeans coming over with some rats that crashed the party - most of the people in Indonesia would die first and not transmit the disease naturally. So it was a disaster in the making.

My impression is that it didn't always worked in Europeans favor: plague is Central Asian, if my memory serves me right, cholera is Indian (and it kept Alexander from actually conquering it), and there are tons of infectious diseases specific to Africa and Americas. I think the big difference with the pox was the fact that it was actually endemic among the humans and didn't rely on a side host to survive. Other diseases are much more climate dependent or host dependent.

So who knows? Maybe, Africa is naturally selecting its way to TB and AIDS resistant rulers of the Earth of tomorrow.
Unsurprisingly, there's a lot said on the subject of diseases in Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.
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Old 09 September 2010, 03:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
Incidentally, there's also some thought that massive die-off of Great Plains indigents was responsible for the huge bison herds European explores and settlers encountered. As the Plains tribes were the primary predators of the American Bison at the time, their die-offs caused the Bison population to explode.
I always figured at least part of the reason bison were so numerous was that all the other large herbivores were killed off at the end of the Pleistocene (As, for that matter, were the biggest and most powerful carnivores).
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