A later form of the smallpox virus was discovered in the remains of individuals from the Viking Age, between the years 600 and 1050. So far, the oldest trace of this ancient pandemic virus dates from the 17th century.

The Vikings will be at the heart of the next Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (Credits: Ubisoft).

Viruses did not wait for the democratization of the plane to cause pandemics. The Vikings, his warrior surveyors of the seas, witnessed this according to a recent study published in the prestigious journal Science. Epidemiologists from all over the world have collaborated to find the oldest possible traces of smallpox virus (or VARV), one of the deadliest mankind has ever known. They sequenced the genetic material preserved in the skeletons and teeth of 1867 human remains discovered in Eurasia and the Americas and dated to 31,630 to 150 years ago. Traces of VARV have been unearthed in 13 North European individuals, 11 of which died between the years 600 and 1050 AD, in the midst of the Viking Age, in Denmark, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom and even on the Swedish island of Oland. According to the researchers, this find constitutes the oldest cases of smallpox ever discovered. So far, the earliest confirmed occurrence of smallpox, or smallpox, was in the 17th century. The virus has since been officially eradicated in 1980 according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the 20th century, it had caused the deaths of several hundred million people around the world. This exclusively human and highly contagious poxvirus formed numerous pustules on the bodies of its victims. Three in ten people eventually die from toxemia (too much of a toxic molecule in the blood) or lung damage.

According to scientists, the VARV genome sequenced from the remains of the Vikings is not quite that of the virus eradicated at the end of the last century. It would belong to an unknown “sister species”, but now clearly extinct, of modern smallpox. This later form of the virus also had fewer genes which, according to some experts interviewed by the New-York Times, could have facilitated its replication in the body of its victims and therefore its propagation and mutation. This genome discovered by epidemiologists nevertheless confirms that smallpox was already a pandemic virus in Europe at the end of the 6th century. The Viking raids, regular at the time, therefore undoubtedly contributed. For Terry Jones, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and one of the authors of the study in question, smallpox may even be even older. In an interview given to New-York Times, he estimates that “the virus could have appeared in India, or in China, more than 1000 to 1500 years before our era. “

Assassin's Creed Valhalla -...

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla -…

  • Write your own viking saga
  • A visceral combat system
  • An open world set in the dark ages of the Middle Ages
  • Lead epic raids