Because the first recorded cases of European syphilis occurred in 1495, Christopher Columbus has often been blamed for introducing the disease to his home shores. The explorer may still may have brought syphilis back—he and his crew had ample opportunities for exposure—but it was present on his side of the Atlantic at least two centuries before he visited the New World, the Daily Mail reports.
The proof is a set of syphilitic skeletons uncovered from a crypt in East London dated from between 1200 and 1250. The skulls of the skeletons bear indentations consistent with symptoms, and the bones have rough patches, another telltale sign. "The skull, which should have been smooth, looks like a lunar landscape. It caused a bit of a stir when it was found because the symptoms are so obvious," says an expert from the Museum of London. "This puts the nail in the coffin of the Columbus theory."