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Secrets of the Dead

The Syphilis Enigma (#206)

When Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic in 1492, his men carried with them diseases that all but wiped out the native Indian populations. As the Europeans and American Indians interacted, however, the transfer of diseases cut both ways, and common theory has the explorers carrying the scourge of syphilis back to Europe. But now, a pre-Columbus skeleton unearthed in a strange English monastery has placed accepted history in severe doubt. In this program, investigators examine twisted and deformed bodies ravaged by the disease and travel to port cities where the epidemic once spread. What they find might determine if the mysterious English skeleton offers cause to rewrite the history books. [56 minutes] Closed Captioning

This episode has not aired in the past few months on Iowa Public Television.

PBS Video

Information For Teachers

Grade Levels
Curricular Areas
Social Studies
Series Length
76 episodes
Average Episode Length
59 minutes
Record Rights
Record and retain for 1 year from each broadcast. No duplication allowed.
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Series Description: Part detective story, part true-life drama, SECRETS OF THE DEAD unearths evidence from around the world, challenging prevailing ideas and throwing fresh light on unexplained events. Using the most up-to-date science in the laboratory and in the field, scientists and researchers examine the missing pieces of each puzzle, completing the picture of what had been merely an assemblage of suppositions.

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