Skip to comments.Sick Rams Used As Ancient Bioweapons
Posted on 11/29/2007 2:53:57 PM PST by blam
Sick Rams Used as Ancient Bioweapons
Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
Once, a Weapon
Nov. 28, 2007 -- Infected rams and donkeys were the earliest bioweapons, according to a new study which dates the use of biological warfare back more than 3,300 years.
According to a review published in the Journal of Medical Hypotheses, two ancient populations, the Arzawans and the Hittites, engaged "in mutual use of contaminated animals" during the 1320-1318 B.C. Anatolian war.
"The animals were carriers of Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia," author Siro Trevisanato, a molecular biologist based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada told Discovery News.
Also known as "rabbit fever," tularemia is a devastating disease which even today can be fatal, if not treated with antibiotics. Its symptoms range from skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands to pneumonia, fever, chills, progressive weakness and respiratory failure.
The disease affects animals such as rabbits, sheep and donkeys and it is passed on to humans through various routes, most commonly through the bite of infected ticks and deerflies.
First isolated in 1911, Francisella tularensis is highly infectious and is now considered one of the pathogens most likely to be used in bioterrorism attacks.
According to Trevisanato, the bacterium flourished in the Eastern Mediterranean toward the end of the 14th century B.C., when a long-lasting, deadly epidemic plagued most of the Middle East.
Known as the Hittite plague, the epidemic is clearly described in letters to the Egyptian king Akhenaten. A letter, dating around 1335 B.C., reports a pestilence in Simyra, a city near todays border between Lebanon and Syria.
Despite efforts to contain the epidemic -- donkeys were banned from being used in caravans -- the disease contaminated an area stretching from Cyprus to Iraq and from Israel to Syria. Subsequently, wars spread the epidemic to central and Western Anatolia. Finally, Aegean soldiers fighting in western Anatolia returned home to their islands, further spreading the epidemic.
"A disease lasting 35-40 years, infecting humans and animals, causing fever, disabilities, and death, spreading via rodents aboard ships as well as donkeys, points to Francisella tularensis. Moreover, there is evidence that tularemia can be traced as far back as 2500 B.C. in the same area, implying that the region was endemic for the bacterium," Trevisanato said.
According to the researcher, the Hittites, whose empire stretched from modern-day Turkey to northern Syria, were severely hit by the disease after they attacked a weakened area around Simyra.
"The booty and prisoners of war left a contaminated trail," Trevisanato said.
Indeed, the plague spread in the Hittites homeland, and two kings died from it within a few years.
The weakened Hittite empire attracted the Arzawans from Western Anatolia and a new war, which lasted between 1320 and 1318 B.C., began. It was at this point that the Hittites used disease-ridden rams and donkeys with the purpose of infecting the enemy.
Records indicate that rams mysteriously began populating the roads in Arzawa. According to Trevisanato, they were sent off by the Hittites, who realized that the animals were involved with spreading the disease.
"The Hittites were weak when the Arzawans attacked them, yet they smashed the enemy within two years. Which kind of secret weapon did they know of to do this Bronze Age blitzkrieg, given their weakened troops and political mess?" posed Trevisanato.
To support the bioweapon theory, tablets dating to the 14-13th century B.C., describe how a ram and a woman attending the animal were sent on the road, spreading the disease along the way.
"The country that finds them shall take over this evil pestilence," the tablet said.
The practice was soon understood by the Arzawans who also reacted by sending their own infected rams on the road in the direction of the enemy troops.
"I agree that infected rams or donkeys driven into enemy territory by the Hittites may well have been the earliest documented biological weapon in the Near East," classical folklorist Adrienne Mayor, the author of "Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Weapons in the Ancient World," told Discovery News.
"Even older evidence for ancient understanding of contagion comes from Sumer (modern Syria). Archaeologists have found several royal letters on cuneiform tablets from the archives of Mari, a town on the Euphrates River.
The letters, dating to 1770 B.C., forbid people from plague-ridden towns to travel to healthy towns, and warn people not to touch or use the personal belongings of infected victims," Mayor said.
WMD’s in the 14th century BC!.....Weapons of Mammalian Diseases!...........
Lies, all of it. The White Man used them first to wipe out the Native Americans. My public school teacher told me so. /s
Or military history ping?
The rodents were merely pack mules for the arthropod vectors. Last time I counted there were 14 or 15 diseases associated with rodents. Absent microbial evidence, two or three of these could be to blame including plague and anthrax.
Hmmmmmm. Infected goats. Middle East.
Is anyone thinking what I’m thinking?
Definitely a MilHist ping...will send it out after I get home today. Thanks, Ultra Sonic 007.
My first thought, oddly enough, involved Peter Stormare and a trebuchet. (”You know what ve gonna do nowwwwww?”)
My second thought was...can people catch Creutzfeld-Jakob through sexual contact?
Close. I was wondering if tularemia could be an STD...
Nasty. I like that.
I can tell you it was a nasty, miserable experience. The stuff is so toxic that when they performed surgery on him to drain the nasty junk out of his neck, they had to do it wearing bio-hazard suits. He was on I.V. antibiotics nonstop and probably had to get a new "stick" once or twice a day (kept jamming up). In the end, it was sixteen days in the hospital - fortunately it was A.I. DuPont Childrens'...an excellent outfit.
It happened in June - the outpatient antibiotics they put him on after being discharged kept him inside, though (couldn't be exposed to sunlight). Crappy summer for the boy. Fortunately for him, he was back into shape and spirit by the start of football season (first week of August) and had a tremendous year.
The infectious diseases doctor actually had to report the case to the Department of Homeland Security - it truly is one of the bio-toxins that could be used by terrorists.
I cannot imagine how the ancients would have fared against this disease given the level of medical expertise they likely had. Dreadful.
It is called "rabbit fever" because rabbits can carry the disease. It was a far more common malady when people used to frequently hunt/eat rabbits - if you cut yourself while skinning the rabbit, you could get sick.
The theory is that he got bit by a tick that had recently bit an infected rabbit. No need to worry, however...the odds are tremendously low of getting it.
Only in Scotland.
Scotland is sheep.
These are goats, more a Middle Eastern thang...
New study??? I know I am getting old but I do remember being taught about this while attending Biological/chemical warfare school in 1960. Oh well, studies show that studies show. SF
Goats would be Texas
I thought this was about the St. Louis Rams beat-up offensive line