The world had witnessed several pandemics between 165 AD and 2019, including the very first Antonine Plague, Plague of Justinian, Black Death, Spanish Flu, Cholera Pandemic, Asian Flu, and now the novel Coronavirus.

But almost 15,000 years ago, centuries before the world faced the first pandemic, in Israel a dangerous illness, more specifically an ear infection, occurred that have been affecting the humanity for at least fifteen millennia, said Tel Aviv University researchers.

Ancient Israel and the Dangerous Illness

As per The Jerusalem Post, Dr. Hila May of the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research stated that ear infection can be studied in a specific way such illness leaves the marks in the middle ear that can be only caused by specific infections.

The lead author of the study, which was published in The International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, May said that earlier, in order to examine the middle ear in a skull, the skull had to be opened and therefore damaged. But thanks to advancements in technology, now researchers have the opportunity in the labs to overcome such challenges. As per the researchers, they are now using a video scope featuring a flexible tube equipped with a micro-camera at the end to check inside the ear canal without damaging the skull.

ear infection
ear infection Pixabay

They have examined more than 220 skulls from Israel, dating from six different periods from 15,000 to 2,000 years ago. Their study revealed that the frequency of the illness declined as the local population's lifestyle changed from hunter-gathering to sedentary. The researchers noticed that among the hunter-gathers, the morbidity was about 70 percent, while in terms of early farmers it came down to 60 percent.

As per the group of researchers, a peak was noticed around 6,000 years ago, at a time when the percentage of specimens presenting signs of ear infections had increased to 80 percent. Later the infection rate decreased and became static at around 50 percent till today.

If the changes in lifestyle in the ancient Israel population allowed the people to get less infected by such illness, including factors like a decrease in temperatures and an increase in rainfall, then as per the scientists the poor living conditions caused the illness to increase again.

Skull Study

All of these skulls used for the study came from an excavation conducted in Israel. As per the researchers, studying these ancient samples from Israel presented the advantage that all those people lived under similar conditions in a small region, "even though the climate conditions changed over the time with the Chalcolithic period presenting more rigid weather, which might have been part of the reason for higher morbidity at that time."

The researchers at TAU revealed that all these skulls belong to adults but the signs of ear infection in the middle of the ear remain the same after all these years even they had developed the illness as a young child.

May stated that "Learning about diseases' history and how they behaved in the past helps us understand how diseases develop, appear or disappear." She also mentioned that an ear infection is something that people usually face from since forever because of the anatomy. She added that "Understanding how ancient populations lived with it and what factors were the most influential is relevant to this day."

Ear infection
Middle Ear Infection Wikimedia commons

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

As per Mayo Clinic, since ear infections often clear up on their own, in modern days treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem. But in many cases, antibiotics are used to clear the infection. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of catching middle ear infection: