Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered the remains of an epidemic that so fiercely ravaged the population at the time that some believed it to be a sign of the apocalypse.
A number of bodies were discovered at the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in the west bank Thebes, modern-day Luxor, that were covered in lime, a substance historically used as a disinfectant. Three kilns to produce the lime and the ashes of a huge bonfire where the bodies of plague victims were incinerated were also discovered nearby, according to Live Science.
The site was dated to around 200-300 AD from the pottery remains in the kilns, which was a period when much of the Roman Empire, including Egypt, was ravaged by a epidemic known as the “Plague of Cyprian”, which is believed to have hastened the decline of Roman rule.
The plague is recorded as killing up to 5,000 people per day in Rome, and this dramatic impact caused the Bishop of Carthage to claim that the disease was a sign of the coming end of days.
The fear instilled by the plague also had a cultural impact on the region, and it appears that the excavation site was ignored over the centuries, possibly due to superstition, until tomb robbers rediscovered the area in the 19th century.
From the descriptions of the plague recorded by historians from the period, scientists believe the disease to have been some form of smallpox or measles.