Some historical info can turn your stomach


I get some slightly odd addictions from time to time.

For instance, there was a period in my life when I was fascinated by the aquaduct system created in ancient Rome. I read every piece of information I could find on the subject, watched numerous documentaries (and, yes, I do in fact find it strange that their are “numerous” documentaries on the subject) and basically discussed it with everyone I knew who had any knowledge on the subject matter at all.

Another point in my life found me obsessed with the old baseball Negro Leagues. I found the characters fascinating, the divide in our nation nearly unfathomable to comprehend and the legends of the players’ exploits to be nearly mythological. I researched those instances when the Negro League players would play with and against the Major League players, and felt almost cheated as a baseball fan that I will never have the opportunity to compare the statistics of all the baseball players from that era.

Lately, I have found myself a little obsessed with King Richard III, and the recent discovery of his remains beneath an English car park about a year ago.

When the “discovery” was first made, I was a bit skeptical. I was fairly certain that after DNA testing was completed it would turn out that the skeletal remains were those of a vagrant from the 1930s or just some random British gangster who was hidden there as the parking garage was constructed.

However, in February of this year, scientists were able to confirm that the DNA found in those remains was a match to Michael Ibsen, a cabinetmaker in Canada who is a direct descendent of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York, as well as to another direct descendent who wished to reamin anonymous.

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, according to historians, and historical records suggest that he was humiliated with a public display of nudity and violence before being laid to rest. Archaeologists who studied the remains said Richard indeed had 10 wounds to his body at or around the time of his death, as well as numerous “humiliation injuries,” which are in line with the stories of his public degredation, according to a story published at that time by cnn.com.

Not much new has come out on the story for a while, but I was still fascinated enough to go back and read a few books on Richard III and his era, and I was constantly finding myself intrigued by little historical nuggests that I’d come across, resulting in me doing research on that subject instead, then another as something else would catch my eye.

It’s like playing around on imdb.com when you are watching a television show or movie. You start out by looking up a character to see where you recognize him or her from, and then you stumble on another actor as you go through the filmography, then another and another and the next thing you know ...

But I digress.

As I was saying, there hasn’t been much new to report on the skeletal remains over the past several months, and I was beginning to move my focus onto new hobbies. And then, surfing the Internet Wednesday morning for news stories, I came across a little nugget on nbcnews.com.

Piers Mitchell, a paleoparasitologist and orthopedic surgeon at the University of Cambridge, has found eggs in the remains that suggest Richard III had roundworm — otherwise known as intestinal parasites. Why does an old royal having parasites interest me, you might ask?

Well, readers, I’m going to pretend you asked anyway.

Because as much as we bemoan the socio-economic divide in this country today, and it is indeed historic for our nation, it was much worse back then. There were the poor, and there were the rich. There wasn’t much of a middle class, and those who probably were between the two were often thought of belonging to the other by each group in question. If you were rich, you were rich. And you had advantages that others simply did not.

But hygiene had a blind eye back then, apparently, and intestinal parasites clung to any vessel that would take them. Plus, Richard III apparently had “bubble guts,” and that is fun to write.