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LeprosyPast and Present$
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Charlotte A. Roberts

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781683401841

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9781683401841.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

The Bioarchaeological Evidence of Leprosy

The Bioarchaeological Evidence of Leprosy

(p.191) 5 The Bioarchaeological Evidence of Leprosy

Charlotte A. Roberts

University Press of Florida

This chapter explores the evidence for leprosy in skeletons from archaeological sites across the globe. On this basis, leprosy has a history of 7,000 years, but this picture will change as more evidence is uncovered. In the past, leprosy appears to have been a disease of the Old World and the northern and eastern hemispheres. The earliest skeletons with leprosy are from Britain, Hungary, Turkey, Iran, and Sudan. Northern Europe has the most evidence with Britain, Denmark, Hungary, and Sweden providing the most data. No evidence has been confirmed in the Americas, but there are more recent documentary data for leprosy there as a result of migration, the slave trade, and colonialism. Leprosy in non-adult skeletons is rare, and there is only one preserved body with evidence: an Egyptian mummy. The majority of the people whose skeletons revealed leprosy were buried normally for the time period in which they lived, their culture, and their geographic location. The bioarchaeological evidence does not corroborate the historical evidence for the frequency of leprosy (and some bioarchaeological evidence predates the historical data), nor does it support the wholesale stigma and marginalization of those affected that is often reported in the historical literature.

Keywords:   leprosy, migration, colonialism, stigma

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