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Ancient irrigation may have spread disease

Analysis of Nubian mummies from along the Nile suggests that the plague of schistosomiasis may have been spread due to irrigation techniques in place at the time they lived.

About 25 percent of mummies in the study dated to about 1,500 years ago were found to have Schistosoma mansoni, a species of schistosomiasis associated with more modern-day irrigation techniques.

“Often in the case of prehistoric populations, we tend to assume that they were at the mercy of the environment, and that their circumstances were a given,” says Campbell Hibbs. “Our study suggests that, just like people today, these ancient individuals were capable of altering the environment in ways that impacted their health.”

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Story: Beverly Clark, Emory University | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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