Between A.D. 250 and 271, a plague so terrible it was considered as the end of the world ravaged the population of Rome. Archaeologists have recently uncovered a monumental site where victims of the plague were burned, revealing traces of the dooming ancient disease.

Bodily remains, pieces of pottery and remnants of bonfire evidence were gathered and puzzled together. The uncovered site is now understood to have been a preventative measure by the Romans to stop the plague in its tracks.

Dubbed the "Plague of Cyprian," the disease took 5,000 victims a day. Members of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor (MAIL) uncovered remains of bodies under lime, which was used as a disinfectant by those attempting to stop the spread of the affliction. Pottery pieces used to produce the lime were found near a bonfire used to burn the victims. The site is a funerary complex dedicated to the Egyptian grand steward Harwa in the 7th century B.C., but once it became a body disposal, its reputation kept people away.

"We found evidence of corpses either burned or buried inside the lime. They had to dispose of them without losing any time," Francesco Tiradritti told Live Science in an interview. Tiradritti led his team of archeologists through the excavation of the tomb in Luxor, Egypt, painstakingly uncovering the site between 1997 and 2012.

Named after the Saint Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage at the time, the plague spread throughout modern-day Europe and Africa and wiped out commoners and emperors alike. The bishop described the disease in a gruesome, but thoroughly specific, written record called "De mortalitate." Translated from Latin in 1885 by Philip Schaff, the record shows Cyprian calling the plague "the passing away of the world." With the death toll at such a high, and no apparent preventative measure besides burning victims immediately, it certainly must have felt like the world's end.

Symptoms described by Cyprian in gory detail lead scientists to conclude that the epidemic was most likely smallpox. The disease has victimized many civilizations throughout history, but was finally eradicated in 1979 following a vaccine campaign.

While scientists have used mummies to extract DNA and attempt to understand ancient diseases in the past, Tiradritti says it is unlikely for extraction to be successful in the case of the human remains found in Luxor.

"In a climate like Egypt," Tiradritti told Live Science, "the DNA is completely destroyed."

Despite the melancholic nature of the monument, Tiradritti believes it can be studied to get a glimpse into the Egyptian art of the period, called the "Pharaonic Renaissance."

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