Travelers On The Silk Road Spread Deadly Diseases By Wiping Their Butts With Sticks
Before it became synonymous with kids buying drugs with Bitcoin, the Silk Road was a 4,000-mile-long network of trading routes stretching across Asia. It was on this road that travelers shared the four C’s of medieval journeys: companionship, culture, commodities, and contagious ass diseases.
In the days of yore, portable ass-wiping technology wasn’t exactly in the forefront of human endeavor. When traveling, your options were to either do nothing and buy a new pair of underwear when you reached Greece or use a stick wrapped in fabric to Q-Tip your butthole. For a long time, archaeologists ignored these poo-sticks when found in one of their digs — what use is petrified merchant diarrhea to our understanding of the past? But when archaeologists excavating a Silk Road relay station in the barren Taklamakan Desert looked at these sticks, they found a whole host of critters that shouldn’t exist anywhere in a thousand-mile radius. It was, sadly for them, the highlight of their careers.
What they found were larvae from multiple species of parasite — namely roundworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and the liver fluke. The latter is a particularly nasty bugger which induces fever, diarrhea, jaundice, liver abscesses, fatigue, and cancer. More importantly, the liver fluke only lives in marshlands, and therefore couldn’t have originated in the Taklamakan without hitching a ride on someone’s brown bus. Imagine traveling over a thousand miles with a cancer bug up your butt just to trade some cloth and learn a few letters of another alphabet. That’s how our world prospered.
This discovery also suggests that the Silk Road wasn’t just proving a highway for parasites — it could have also provided a route for anything from the bubonic plague and anthrax and leprosy to rare diseases that set your blood on fire. So we guess it was a lot more similar to today’s Silk Road than we’re comfortable with.
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