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Leprosy in the Middle Ages – A Tale of Tragedy and Prejudice • Mirror Daily

A team of British archaeologists unearthed the remains of a pilgrim who suffered from leprosy.

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Leprosy has always been a subject of interest among scientists, since there is and was a lot of controversy surrounding it. According to traditional theories, during the Middle Ages, when the disease was blooming, people afflicted by it were treated as outcasts – shunned by every layer of society and forced to live in shadows or leper colonies.

However, a recent archeological discovery seeks to challenge the traditional approach, by changing our perspective on the nature of the rapport between the leper and society.

During an archaeological excavation at the Saint Mary Magdalen Cemetery, a team of scientists has discovered what seem to be the earthly remains of a pilgrim. This discovery becomes even more intriguing after finding out that the location is actually a Medieval cemetery and, on top of that, a leprosarium.

Also, it would seem that the Medieval cemetery belongs to Winchester hospital which one of the largest leprosy wards during the Middle Ages. Professor Simon Roffey, one of the scientists involved in the recent excavation, declared that approximately 100 skeletal remains had been unearthed at the Saint Mary Magdalen Hospital.

Peculiar enough, the archaeologists discovered that approximately 90 percent of all skeletons showed signs of leprosy, which is quite uncommon, considering that their graves indicated that they’d received a Christian pilgrim burial.

This discovery comes to challenge the traditional theories which state that people suffering from leprosy were shunned by every layer of society. Roffey said that one of the skeletons recovered from the cemetery provided undisputable evidence regarding how lepers were treated during the Middle Ages.

The team who made the discovery said that the man’s grave contained many scallop shells. During the Middle Ages, the scallop shells symbolized the end of a pilgrimage route called the Way of Saint James.

As Roffey explained, the scallop shells found in the man’s grave meant that he completed the Way of Saint James and reached the grave of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The shells placed inside the grave signifies that even though the man suffered from leprosy, he received a Christian pilgrim burial.

The scientist declared that this archaeological discovery would aid in casting away the various misconceptions formed around the subject of leprosy. Even though history describes the leper as a menacing shadow which remains us of our own mortality, it would seem that, in some instances, individuals suffering from this illness were treated just like common folk.

Image source: Wikipedia

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