A plague wracked Athens from 426 to 430 B.C. and eventually led to the city’s fall. The ancient medical mystery behind it has eventually been solved by DNA analysis, researchers say. According to a new study, the ancient Athenians died from typhoid fever.
It is after studying dental pulp extracted from the teeth of three people found in a mass grave in Athens’ Kerameikos cemetery, scientists from the University of Athens drew this conclusion. The mass grave was first discovered in 1994 and was dated to about 430 B.C. — the time of the plague. At least 150 bodies had been thrown into the pit, as the corpses are found piled in five layers with no soil between them.
“It was evident that they were buried irregularly, hastily, and without the death rituals of the time, almost in a state of panic,” said Manolis Papagrigorakis, a professor at the University of Athens’ School of Dentistry who lead the study.