For many centuries, historians have debated over the collapse of the Aztec empire in the 1500s.
For the first time ever, scientists have found DNA evidence of an epidemic, which killed 80 percent of the population.
When the Spaniards arrived in 1519 to Mexico, the Aztec Empire was inhabited by approx. 25 million inhabitants.
A century later, the population had fallen to only one million, and the powerful empire had collapsed.
The reason for the drastic reduction was mainly Spaniards foreign diseases, which the Aztecs were very vulnerable.
Historians proposed that smallpox, measles, smallpox or perhaps typhus were responsible. However, none was able to support any of these theories with a concrete proof in form of DNA evidence.
Now, this proof has been found – the early form of salmonella could have been responsible for the mass killing (eighty percent) of the Aztecs.
German researchers from the Max Planck Institute have managed to extract DNA from 29 skeletons from a burial site located in southern Mexico. Among them, there were 24 of them, who died in the period from 1545 to 1550.
The researchers found traces of the dangerous bacteria – salmonella.
The meticulous work showed that many of the dead had been infected with the particularly deadly bacterium Salmonella Paratyphi C. This bacterium causes the so-called paratyphoid fever, a bacterial infection with the same symptoms and spreadable effects as typhoid fever.
When no treatment is used, Salmonella Paratyphi C kills up to 15 percent of the infected.
DNA results will now be subjected to further studies to confirm their validity.