Remains of Apocalyptic Plague Unearthed in Egypt

Remains of Apocalyptic Plague Unearthed in Egypt

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient Egyptian epidemic so terrible that it is believed to have contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

In the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in the ancient city of Thebes, the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor (MAIL) found bodies covered in a layer of lime, a substance historically used as a disinfectant, as well as a giant bonfire containing human remains in which plague victims were cremated.

The remains were dated based on pottery to the third century A.D., during which a series of epidemics today known as the "Plague of Cyprian" ravaged the Roman Empire. Saint Cyprian, a bishop who believed the plague signaled the end of the world, described the grisly effects of the epidemic. "The bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces (an area of the mouth)," he wrote in Latin in a work called "De mortalitate." The "intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting, the eyes are on fire with the injected blood," he wrote, adding that "in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction..."

The plague "according to some sources killed more than 5,000 people a day in Rome alone," wrote Francesco Tiradritti, director of the MAIL, in the latest issue of Egyptian Archeology. According to modern day scientists, the plague may have been a form of measles or smallpox, and it contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. "It killed two Emperors, Hostilian in A.D. 251 and Claudius II Gothicus in A.D. 270," wrote Tiradritti. It is "a generally held opinion that the 'Plague of Cyprian' seriously weakened the Roman Empire, hastening its fall."

During the H1N1 scare, it was said that we are overdue for a pandemic. Do you believe we're prepared to survive such an event with minimal casualties, or do you think a plague could bring our modern world to its knees?

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"Do you believe we're prepared to survive such an event with minimal casualties".

no[1]

in fact if we suffered a real pandemic we'd probably nuke a few brown people countries just for good measure...

our system is in no state to deal with real tangible problems.

it's custom made to make answering one question/problem last decades...

that and peddle us shit...which we'd no doubt buy, get no protection from and then die anyway...

this is why you all should have read World War Z before it became a shitty Brad Pitt movie that makes people who did read it wonder why he paid for the book rights...

[1] except for the Israelis ;)

I'd call it a "population correction" if an event of this nature was to happen in the modern age. Not to be cruel, but that would be the end result - a huge decrease in human population, easing the stress we've placed on natural resource acquisition and misuse. It will almost have to happen at some point unless we suddenly start colonizing other planets or build an Elysium-style spacestation.

Wait, how come this is the first time I'm hearing about a plague helping destroy the Roman Empire? I love history and have read a lot, but I don't remember this. Maybe I simply forgot...

Sleekit:

in fact if we suffered a real pandemic we'd probably nuke a few brown people countries just for good measure...

Our white people countries are hilariously able to disregard all the lives in brown people countries. There might be a couple weeks of hesitation, but as a group, we'll overcome the empathy soon enough.

Sleekit:

this is why you all should have read World War Z before it became a shitty Brad Pitt movie that makes people who did read it wonder why he paid for the book rights...

Damn, that was a shitty movie. I never read the book, but I'm sure its plot wasn't as much of a clusterfuck as that movie's was.

Remus:
I'd call it a "population correction" if an event of this nature was to happen in the modern age. Not to be cruel, but that would be the end result - a huge decrease in human population, easing the stress we've placed on natural resource acquisition and misuse. It will almost have to happen at some point unless we suddenly start colonizing other planets or build an Elysium-style spacestation.

Aaaaand once again I get to point out that the UN has predicted population stabilization of 8.1 to 10 billion, with a possible collapse down to 6 billion by the end of the twenty first century, so please stop repeating this drivel as if it's fact and not unlikely speculation.

OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Woah woah woah, a Plague that literally killed 5,000 people a day and we discovered evidence of it's existence, IE, the Skulls of former Victims?!

First, what are they doing in Egypt right now? That's not safe.

Second of all, do you really want to find something like this? Who knows how long this disease could be alive for on non-living things! They might all become carriers or infected with this stuff!

Still, I guess it's a cool finding. I never heard of this Plague though. To Wikipedia!

I remember the story of some woman librarian finding an envelope in an old dictionary during work one day. That contained old smallpox flakes, or something like that, I can't remember exactly. That was years and years ago, very old, I doubt them uncovering this would make any difference, since that disease probably died out if it was covered off with lime or burned out.

I think though, despite our technology and better medicine, we wouldn't handle a world wide plague very well. Our luck, all the major scientists or people that could help make such a cure would get infected and die due to outside sources like... other people. People would lose their minds, go insane and cause as much havoc as possible since, they figure they're going to die anyway, might as well make the most of it. That was one of my jokes back during the whole 2012 nonsense. The apocalypse won't really happen, but we'll all die from eachother's own paranoia and want for the destruction or other selfish crap.

You never know until its too late.

rasputin0009:
Damn, that was a shitty movie. I never read the book, but I'm sure its plot wasn't as much of a clusterfuck as that movie's was.

the book is genius. seriously if you read books at all consider reading that one.

it's not just about zombies.

lacktheknack:

Remus:
I'd call it a "population correction" if an event of this nature was to happen in the modern age. Not to be cruel, but that would be the end result - a huge decrease in human population, easing the stress we've placed on natural resource acquisition and misuse. It will almost have to happen at some point unless we suddenly start colonizing other planets or build an Elysium-style spacestation.

Aaaaand once again I get to point out that the UN has predicted population stabilization of 8.1 to 10 billion, with a possible collapse down to 6 billion by the end of the twenty first century, so please stop repeating this drivel as if it's fact and not unlikely speculation.

OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Once again? I don't recall you correcting me on this topic before, probably because I've never been in or read discussions about plagues prior. I'm atheist btw, so if there's some inferrence that my statement is somehow related to religion, I assure you it's not.

Remus:

lacktheknack:

Remus:
I'd call it a "population correction" if an event of this nature was to happen in the modern age. Not to be cruel, but that would be the end result - a huge decrease in human population, easing the stress we've placed on natural resource acquisition and misuse. It will almost have to happen at some point unless we suddenly start colonizing other planets or build an Elysium-style spacestation.

Aaaaand once again I get to point out that the UN has predicted population stabilization of 8.1 to 10 billion, with a possible collapse down to 6 billion by the end of the twenty first century, so please stop repeating this drivel as if it's fact and not unlikely speculation.

OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Once again? I don't recall you correcting me on this topic before, probably because I've never been in or read discussions about plagues prior. I'm atheist btw, so if there's some inferrence that my statement is somehow related to religion, I assure you it's not.

No, I've just fussed about the whole "We're going to overpopulate the Earth" thing a lot recently, and it's getting old.

ThePurpleStuff:
I remember the story of some woman librarian finding an envelope in an old dictionary during work one day. That contained old smallpox flakes, or something like that, I can't remember exactly. That was years and years ago, very old, I doubt them uncovering this would make any difference, since that disease probably died out if it was covered off with lime or burned out.

I think though, despite our technology and better medicine, we wouldn't handle a world wide plague very well. Our luck, all the major scientists or people that could help make such a cure would get infected and die due to outside sources like... other people. People would lose their minds, go insane and cause as much havoc as possible since, they figure they're going to die anyway, might as well make the most of it. That was one of my jokes back during the whole 2012 nonsense. The apocalypse won't really happen, but we'll all die from eachother's own paranoia and want for the destruction or other selfish crap.

You never know until its too late.

I imagine we'll handle it about as well as we handled the spanish flu during 1918-1920. It was world wide, infected around 500 million and killed somewhere around 50 to 100 million of them. This during the end of world war 1 no less at that. So I don't think there'd be much of a difference in reaction unless the disease somehow had 100% kill rate.

Remus:
I'd call it a "population correction" if an event of this nature was to happen in the modern age. Not to be cruel, but that would be the end result - a huge decrease in human population, easing the stress we've placed on natural resource acquisition and misuse. It will almost have to happen at some point unless we suddenly start colonizing other planets or build an Elysium-style spacestation.

Well the whole Zalem/Elysium concept likely wouldn't work out too well because it would take too many resources to build and maintain, you'd need to have resources coming in from space (asteroid mining or whatever) and if your doing that, you might as well just have space colonies. Elysium was intended mostly as a (rather bad) metaphor. Battle Angel, where Zalem is from (and what probably inspired Elysium) had a bit more going on, as the whole "social divide" thing was an illusion, something else was going on entirely.... I actually watched "Elysium" expecting a similar final "zinger" showing that everything you were lead to believe was inaccurate, but that never happened.

That said a massive plague wiping out the majority of humanity would be a good thing, providing the survivors are able to unify into one government/culture nowadays, and institute population control to keep the numbers down, expanding our population only as our available resources also increase (space colonies, etc...). An event of some sort, plague, disaster, etc... is how a lot of the backstory in science fiction series begins to explain how humanity got together and formed an earth government. It would mean my own calls for a massive world war simply for the purposes of unification and population reduction wouldn't be necessary. A disaster like a plague is more "antiseptic" in the eyes of history as nobody can really be blamed for that.

Overall though, groups like the CDC have a handle on things to a point well beyond the romans. In the case of an emergency like this, the CDC has incredible amounts of emergency power, which is why they figure so heavily into conspiracy theories and related fiction. For all the doomsday scenarios people have come up with involving diseases, counter-scenarios have been devised, albeit many of them are quite extreme and unpleasant. Chances are if we ever saw a real "extinction level event" type plague moving it would probably be recognized, and we'd probably wind up burning down and/or nuking our own cities, as well as entire nations believed to be responsible for the infection. Indeed someone's earlier comments about "nuking a few countries full of brown people" is actually fairly accurate as some hypothetical plans I've heard (apparently having been leaked publically) encourage specifically that, albeit without the racial angle. Basically it's believed that if a plague like that was to get going it's most likely to originate in Africa, Asia, or Central/South America based on the plagues and such we've seen. Part of our missile deployment is apparently set up specifically (via countries hosting missile bases) to respond to such a call. Likewise one of the reasons why
the US allegedly has so many missiles stored in the middle of the country in the so called "flyover states" (leading to the old jokes about siloes in corn fields and the like) is that in the case of a plague-event we're prepared to scotch either, or both, major coastlines. The idea basically being that if we say had something nasty ravaging say Asia, and then found reports in California, unlike the movies where they screw things up worse by attempting a conventional quarantine, the government might very well just nuke the offending areas, and then pretty much level California. Of course we're talking something that is an "apocalypse" type plague here that is recognized, not your general nasty/lethal infection. Hence we're talking extreme measures. The point here being that the US, and probably a lot
of the civilized world that we coordinate with on such matters, might kill hundreds of millions of people, but you wouldn't see the same levels of decimation, at least by the %s (more people being alive today means of course that in absolute terms more people would die).

Of course the above doesn't apply to man made plagues, supernatural events (if anyone wants to make that kind of argument, but I'm not going there), or other assorted things. See, if you were going to say set off a plague like this intentionally you'd want something that isn't as dramatic and works as a slow burn so people won't be able to react that way and say decide "we'll snuff California and The East Coast to save the rest of the US" or whatever else. The idea being that by the time people realize the threat it will have already spread fairly evenly making even the most extreme attempts at containment impossible.

The point here is that I don't think it could go down like it did in The Ancient World. If we did suddenly see a plague decimating people like that, I'd immediately say a human hand would need to be involved in it.... or a supernatural cause (for those who make such arguments). I mention the supernatural aspect of things simply because while it was likely just superstitious people at the time dealing with what they couldn't understand, there have long been arguments that some of those plagues were brought about by divine retribution, curses, or whatever else. The arguments typically being made that they people back then had a better understanding of what they were dealing with than we give them credit for, and some of the worst plagues managed to survive and spread despite things that should have ended the threat (entire villages, towns, etc... being burned etc...).

You guys do know the CDC exists solely for the purpose of making sure something like this doesn't happen, right?

my mum works for the ministry of health here and i remember her telling my brother and i one night after she got home from work when the whole Mexican swine flu i think it was, was going on, about how many procedures and things were in place to stop any sort of massive out break the swine flu thing got treated like a bit of a dry run and no one really realised what can be brought to bear on a deadly bacteria or virus when its really bad. we have massive cool stores around the country that were dedicated to the beef and lamb industry have been converted into morgues just to store plague bodies and keep them on ice until it can be sorted out there the airports can be closed and the only way in and out of an island country like mine is by air and sea and ships can be quarantined and burnt airports can be closed

given our knowledge of germs virus and other agents capable of intiating a pandemic, as well as they way they can infect people, yes we are prepared for a pandemic, if we cant developet a cure or vaccine we could atleast take some preventive meansures

So basically a cholera epidemic?

Did that really need the apocalyptic thing in front of it?

I think we'd do pretty good. The average person on the street understands infection control a lot better than the average ancient Egyptian person would have done (i.e. that disease isn't caused by bad smells/gods) and we've already done pretty fantastic at minimising the risks that preciously horrendous pathogens caused us.

I don't understand why everyone thinks the world would go to shit and everyone would start nuking Pakistan because someone has ebola. I know it's cool to think we're a stupid, evil species but - I don't know about anyone else - I can't think of a species more clever and charitable than us.

lacktheknack:
OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Not if I know archaeologists and historians. I'm doing a degree in history, and one of my modules was on the Black Death. My reaction when I saw this post wasn't dread, or sympathy, or any of that, it was sheer excitement at learning about this. Plagues are fascinating, and however morbid it might seem, I think any academic around this discovery may have wet themselves a little bit at this find.

Mr.Mattress:
Who knows how long this disease could be alive for on non-living things! They might all become carriers or infected with this stuff!

If there is something that can survive being buried in a desert after being burned... I say we make it our new leader and hope it is merciful. All glory to our new microbial overlords!

Toadfish1:
You guys do know the CDC exists solely for the purpose of making sure something like this doesn't happen, right?

So much this. The probable reason we're 'overdue' for a serious plague is precisely because of organisations like the WHO and CDC, as well as that whole 'modern medicine' thing. A global pandemic ala 1918 is highly unlikely in the modern age. Although with the media being what it is, there'd probably only need to be a dozen or so deaths worldwide for a disease to be heralded as an extinction level disaster.

Megalodon:
A global pandemic ala 1918 is highly unlikely in the modern age.

Not really. Despite all our advances in medicine, there's still pretty much nothing we can do about most viral infections, and even diseases we can treat and/or vaccinate still kill millions every year. A new disease, or simply an old one that has been out of circulation such as smallpox or even TB, that most people have no natural resistance to absolutely could cause serious problems. Throw in the fact that population density has never been higher and travel has never been easier, and if anything a pandemic is much more likely now than ever before.

Smallpox in particular is of note, since that's almost certainly what both the Plague of Cyprian and the preceding Antonine Plague around a century earlier were. It killed a few hundred million people in the 20th century, and was still killing millions per year in the '60s soon before it was entirely eradicated. There is still no cure, there are no vaccine stockpiles, and there will be very little immunity since vaccination is no longer carried out and has not been for decades and immunity doesn't last for decades in those who have been vaccinated. If it got into the wild again, there would be absolutely nothing to stop it being just as bad as before. There are currently similar concerns about TB, where eradication has essentially failed and resistant strains which again have no cure are currently spreading. Antibiotic resistance is such a big concern precisely because it means our medical advances end up meaning absolutely nothing. Treating someone with resistant TB means making them comfortable and hoping they don't die.

Mr.Mattress:
Woah woah woah, a Plague that literally killed 5,000 people a day

Almost certainly not. The population of Rome was only around a million at that time, and the plague lasted for 20 years or more by which time the population had declined to around 500,000 (not just due to the plague). There's simply no way such a high death rate could have existed for more than a day or two. That's the maximum possible peak of deaths, not a consistent sustained rate.

Second of all, do you really want to find something like this? Who knows how long this disease could be alive for on non-living things!

As noted above, it was almost certainly smallpox. Infection requires close contact with an infected person, the virus doesn't survive outside the body for very long. 2000 year old skulls are not an issue.

Well this is fun lunch time reading!

I Quite enjoyed WWZ, Mainly because it was a 'zombie' movie with more tense moments than 'pow pow pow' moments. People are hard to please!

Ready for a plague... nope.. I mean look at how well we handled the HIV epidemic.

Our only saving grace is that the super plagues like ebola and what not tend to cripple and kill their victims too quickly. I.e the victims are laid up before they have the chance to spread it to others.

A true super plague would need to have a fairly long incubation period. Say about a month, during which the carrier shows no symptoms but still remains infectious. Heck even a 2 week window would spell disaster.

Thyunda:

lacktheknack:
OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Not if I know archaeologists and historians. I'm doing a degree in history, and one of my modules was on the Black Death. My reaction when I saw this post wasn't dread, or sympathy, or any of that, it was sheer excitement at learning about this. Plagues are fascinating, and however morbid it might seem, I think any academic around this discovery may have wet themselves a little bit at this find.

Oh, I'm sure they did, but can you imagine digging away at a layer of lime and then boom skulls everywhere?

Gives me the heebie-jeebies.

lacktheknack:

Thyunda:

lacktheknack:
OT: Insert Bible reference here. I really don't envy people who find these things, it's gotta be a massive scare.

Not if I know archaeologists and historians. I'm doing a degree in history, and one of my modules was on the Black Death. My reaction when I saw this post wasn't dread, or sympathy, or any of that, it was sheer excitement at learning about this. Plagues are fascinating, and however morbid it might seem, I think any academic around this discovery may have wet themselves a little bit at this find.

Oh, I'm sure they did, but can you imagine digging away at a layer of lime and then boom skulls everywhere?

Gives me the heebie-jeebies.

If they were geologists, yeah, but archaeologists are heartless bastards who get excited in a skullvalanche. The kind of person to burst into your bedroom cradling an ancient skeleton and bellowing "I KNEW IT! I WAS RIGHT!" and then they start swearing about some historian who they hate.

Thyunda:

lacktheknack:

Thyunda:

Not if I know archaeologists and historians. I'm doing a degree in history, and one of my modules was on the Black Death. My reaction when I saw this post wasn't dread, or sympathy, or any of that, it was sheer excitement at learning about this. Plagues are fascinating, and however morbid it might seem, I think any academic around this discovery may have wet themselves a little bit at this find.

Oh, I'm sure they did, but can you imagine digging away at a layer of lime and then boom skulls everywhere?

Gives me the heebie-jeebies.

If they were geologists, yeah, but archaeologists are heartless bastards who get excited in a skullvalanche. The kind of person to burst into your bedroom cradling an ancient skeleton and bellowing "I KNEW IT! I WAS RIGHT!" and then they start swearing about some historian who they hate.

Christ. Remind me never to get an archaeologist as a roommate. xD

If they were geologists, yeah, but archaeologists are heartless bastards who get excited in a skullvalanche. The kind of person to burst into your bedroom cradling an ancient skeleton and bellowing "I KNEW IT! I WAS RIGHT!" and then they start swearing about some historian who they hate.

I smell sitcom!

OT: Always nice to know the reasons behind the fall of the roman empire, such a big thing for it's time just collapsing due to problem after problem...

Kahani:

Megalodon:
A global pandemic ala 1918 is highly unlikely in the modern age.

Not really. Despite all our advances in medicine, there's still pretty much nothing we can do about most viral infections, and even diseases we can treat and/or vaccinate still kill millions every year. A new disease, or simply an old one that has been out of circulation such as smallpox or even TB, that most people have no natural resistance to absolutely could cause serious problems. Throw in the fact that population density has never been higher and travel has never been easier, and if anything a pandemic is much more likely now than ever before.

While you are right about travel and population density. You're still discounting the existence of bodies like the WHO, whose job it is to prevent such global pandemics. Such measure simply didn't exist for past pandemics. Even if a sufficiently deadly pathogen arises, countermeasure exist to limit the spread, so we probably won't see the global spread seen in historic pandemics.

Smallpox in particular is of note, since that's almost certainly what both the Plague of Cyprian and the preceding Antonine Plague around a century earlier were. It killed a few hundred million people in the 20th century, and was still killing millions per year in the '60s soon before it was entirely eradicated. There is still no cure, there are no vaccine stockpiles, and there will be very little immunity since vaccination is no longer carried out and has not been for decades and immunity doesn't last for decades in those who have been vaccinated. If it got into the wild again, there would be absolutely nothing to stop it being just as bad as before. There are currently similar concerns about TB, where eradication has essentially failed and resistant strains which again have no cure are currently spreading. Antibiotic resistance is such a big concern precisely because it means our medical advances end up meaning absolutely nothing. Treating someone with resistant TB means making them comfortable and hoping they don't die.

No it isn't really. The reason smallpox isn't vaccinated against any more is, as you said, because it is extinct in the wild. I seriously doubt that the ability to make smallpox vaccine has been lost since 1979, and there's no way the WHO would take a breach at either of their CL4 storage facilities lying down. Worrying about smallpox getting out is a waste of time, you're better off worrying about being killed by falling coconuts.

TB is a bad example as well. As it's simply not dangerous enough to create the kind of pandemic this thread is talking about. The majority of even MDR TB can be treated with a good rate of success. As a disease with a 4% fatality rate at its worst currently, TB doesn't really have the virulence clout to achieve the sort of global pandemic that we see in history.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673610621733

If you want a disease with a actual chance (again, I don't think its likely) of replicating old pandemics, stick with flu.

This is the kind of shit that happens at the start of a horror movie. If I were there, I would have soiled myself and immediately poured napalm on the remains to be sure.

As for the question of whether we're prepared, yes and no. We have protocols in place, massive organisations that monitor such diseases, but nature is deadly and unpredictable. So much so, I really don't actually like thinking about it all that much. The thought that the relative comfort of our everyday lives could in theory, in less than a year, be shattered by something so small we can't even see it with the naked eye.

Toadfish1:
You guys do know the CDC exists solely for the purpose of making sure something like this doesn't happen, right?

Yep, and much like the big, badass marines in aliens, even all their preparation could be made a mockery of by just one particularly vicious bug. Not saying they don't have any point to exist, of course they have all the reason in the world to exist, they've probably stopped several serious threats in the time they've been operating, and god knows how much of a contribution such organisations make to science in general through their research, but fact is, they're still only human.

I'm still in the boat that people inappropriately/over use anti-biotics, especially with the use of anti-bacterial soap & hand gels. It's weakening our immune systems and allowing strong, resistant bacteria to get an edge. Also the fact the anti-biotics are killing the good bacteria that help your body.

Anti-biotics should only be used in hospitals and when people are seriously sick.

Otherwise, if you're a healthy person, regular old soap and water will help prevent the spread of the minor illnesses just fine. Building a strong immune system by eating right, exercising, & not over using antibacterial products will take care of the rest.

Ultimately, we've got the people who over use the antibacterial stuff combined with people at the other end of the extreme who find it too inconvenient to wash their hands ever. People who never wash their hands spread the diseases, the people with the weaken immune systems thanks to antibacterial over use strengthen the disease. The over used antibacterial people are easy targets and the stronger disease resulting from them easily passes between the people that never wash their hands, killing a large portion of them. Children and Elderly will be the easiest targets as usual.

So yeah, I think we are in store for a major pandemic that will bring our modern world to it's knees.

 

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