A team of archaeologists from Italy has discovered the remains of ancient plague victims at a prehistoric burial area in Egypt, now known as Luxor. Around 5,000 people, between 250 AD and 271 AD, reportedly died daily from the deadly disease.
The epidemic was named the Plague of Cyprian, and its impact in the Roman Empire was so large that one ancient writer believed the disease would lead to the end of world.
The team of researchers, along with the Italian Archaeological Mission, discovered human remains at the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in the ancient city of Thebes. The body parts were coated with layers of lime.
They also spotted three kilns which had been stored the lime, and a huge bonfire site containing the plague victim bodies which had been burned in order to prevent the spreading of the disease.
The monument, Funerary Complex, had been constructed in honor of the Egyptian grand steward Harwa during the 17th century BC, and was used frequently until it become a site for burial in the third century AD.
Francesco Tiradritti, leader of the team, and his co-authors who worked at the Funerary Complex from 1997 to 2012 wrote that using the tomb to dispose of infected corpses gave it "a lasting bad reputation and doomed it to centuries of oblivion until tomb robbers entered the complex in the early 19th century," claims a report from Daily Mail.
The Plague of Cyprian affected 25 percent of those living in the Roman Empire, and is now believed by some to have been caused by smallpox virus.
"The bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces (an area of the mouth). Cyprian added that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting, the eyes are on fire with the injected blood, and that in some instances, the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction," Tiradritti wrote.
"The discovery of the body disposal site is just one part of the team's research. Thebes is a massive site containing a vast necropolis, and the excavations of the MAIL are providing new data that allows scholars to determine how it changed between the seventh century BC and today," said Owen Jarus, according to Live Science.
The details of the finding have been published in the Society journal Egyptian Archaeology.