It’s been popularly theorized among experts in tropical diseases that the explorer brought back one too many treasures from the New World, including the potentially fatal sexually transmitted infection. Soon after his return in the mid-1490s, a pandemic of the disease erupted in Europe.
However, the largest excavation of skeletons undertaken in Britain has unearthed seven that suggest the disease was known in England up to two centuries before that.
Archaeologists believe that rough patches on the skulls and limbs of skeletons found at St Mary Spital in East London exonerate Columbus’s crew.
Brian Connell, an osteologist for the Museum of London who studied the bones, said he had no doubt that the skeletons were buried before Columbus’ voyage. Radiocarbon dating of the samples is estimated to be 95 percent accurate.
“We’re confident that Christopher Columbus is simply not a feature of the emergence and timing of the disease in Europe,” Connell said.