Live Science has a piece out covering a new article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases by a doctor at the University of Michigan who is retro-diagnosing plagued Athenians with ebola. Because why not?
I don't have time to thoroughly deal with this, since it's been a long day of writing already and there's yet more to write, but the new article does not in any way mention the 2006 article "DNA examination of ancient dental pulp incriminates typhoid fever as a probable case of the Plague of Athens."
DNA. In ancient skeletons. Of plague victims.
|Plan of the Kerameikos mass burial. |
Figure 1 in Papagrigorakis et al. 2006.
I'm not a huge fan of retro-diagnoses, but in the case of historical figures, I'll allow it. After all, bringing modern medical knowledge to bear on ancient cases seems like a reasonable way to generate hypotheses and new interpretations of the past.
But when there's already DNA evidence of a pathogen from a plague pit? Yeah, time to stop shoehorning ebola into ancient Athens.
Papagrigorakis MJ, Yapijakis C, Synodinos PN, Baziotopoulou-Valavani E (2006). DNA examination of ancient dental pulp incriminates typhoid fever as a probable cause of the Plague of Athens. International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, 10 (3), 206-14 PMID: 16412683.
Kazanjian P (2015). Ebola in Antiquity? Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America PMID: 26033924.