Written by By Hanna Ho, CNN
Discovered in 1624 by German scholar Johann Zumwalt, the medieval Covid mystery is one of history’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
But according to new research, there may be a answer at last — and it revolves around a supply of onions.
The 41-year-old woman whose skeleton has been classified as the first documented case of Covid fever has been identified by scientists as a trader who worked at the Wuhan animal market at the end of the 16th century.
An undated engraving of a Wuenhut trader selling onions. Credit: Eva Argade, CC BY-SA 2.0, Sotheby’s
The recipe for what is essentially a hair-borne virus
The woman, who appears to have died within weeks of the fatal attack, was first identified in an archeological report published in 2005 by French artist and amateur historical researcher Pascal Peyrière.
Peyrière’s excavations of the medieval city of Canton Wuhan in central China revealed the woman’s skeletons alongside those of nine other women, likely victims of the notorious disease.
The disease is thought to have claimed over 7,000 lives in the Chinese city before the population was wiped out in 1433.
By turning to the online database of public records at the Canton Normal University in China, archaeologists had also concluded that the woman’s husband had likely died during the first half of the 16th century and that she had inherited an illness similar to what is believed to have caused her to die.
The oldest known medieval Covid case. Credit: Sotheby’s
But the new analysis of her bones, published in the journal Nature , sheds further light on the woman’s involvement in early European history.
The study concludes that the woman was involved in the execution of three executed merchants based in Canton who she accused of illegally transporting rats to sell in her market.
According to the report, when the woman’s husband went to investigate and encountered the market owner, he was beaten to death by the same manager.
Both the dead men had traveled from the north to Wuhan to assist the accused traders in their illegal trade.