Apparently, it wasn’t a terrible curse that wiped out the Aztecs, Mexico’s most ancient population, but something far more mundane and still present in today’s society.
A new study has found the cause of this civilisation’s demise in the stomach contents of 16th-century corpses linked to the epidemic that killed 80% of Mexico’s indigenous peoples.
For centuries the source of the outbreak was known as cocoliztili, the Aztec word for pestilence. Experts were confused as to what exactly this meant regarding disease types. Measles, smallpox and typhus were all excluded. It was even thought that a type of fever or plague was the culprit.
So scientists from Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, pulled teeth and took samples from mass graves of 400-year-old outbreak victims in the Mexican highlands. After analysing the DNA from these remains, they discovered a strain of Salmonella, called Paratyphi C, was present.
This is a breakthrough in the mystery of what killed the Aztecs and the researchers believe that it is likely the Europeans brought the bacteria with them, due to unsanitary conditions caused by considerable unrest.
Loaded staff writer Danielle De La Bastide has lived all over the planet and written for BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog as well as print publications throughout the Caribbean.