Meso American medicine

Prior to the ''discovery'' of the New World by Columbus in 1492, there were three high cultures in the Meso-

American world. The Incas occupied the highlands along the west coast of what is now Peru. The Mayan culture occupied the Yucatan Peninsula and surrounding areas of Central America, and the Aztecs controlled the central plateaus of Central America. When Columbus, Cortez, and their compatriots arrived in the new world, the Meso-American cultures were exposed to several devastating diseases, including measles, smallpox, and chickenpox, which were more lethal than the military armaments the invaders brought. The Pre-Columbian Americans still lived in a Stone Age culture, but were highly sophisticated in their knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and language. Among the most useful drugs discovered in the New World was the Cinchona bark (quinine), which was used to treat fevers, including malaria. Diseases were believed to be caused by supernatural, magical, and natural causes. Treatment was related to the cause (56). One of the sources of information about disease in Pre-Columbian societies is their sculptured artifacts. These figurines represent malnutrition, deformity, and physical illness (57). Some of the individuals represent people suffering from various diseases including spinal defects, endemic goiter, obesity, eye diseases, and skin ailments (57).

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