3 strategies used by ancient Ghanaian and other African societies to deal with pandemics

3 strategies used by ancient Ghanaian and other African societies to deal with pandemics

Over the centuries, pandemics such as the Black Death which occurred from 1347 to 1351 and the Spanish Flu of 1918 caused major shifts in human society.

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And the novel coronavirus is yet another pandemic that has forcefully engineered dramatic shift in the social, cultural, political, scientific, defense and other systems in the world.

The outbreak of pandemics have compelled human societies including Africans to develop creative solutions and other means for survival.

Archaeologists have long studied diseases in past populations.

To do so, they consider a wide array of evidence: settlement layout, burials, funerary remains, and human skeletons.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: 2,070 patients recover from 6,808 cases in Ghana

Qz.com reports that during the early 14th century AD in Ghana, the damaging impact of epidemics prompted the abandonment of settlements at Akrokrowa in Ghana.

In the Limpopo Valley of South Africa, nearly 76 infant burial sites at an abandoned settlement that now forms part of the Mapungubwe World Heritage site suggest a pandemic hit the people living there after 1000 AD.

Data collected by archaeologists, that show how indigenous knowledge systems helped ancient societies in Africa deal with the shock of illness and pandemics, can help remind policy makers of different ways to prepare modern societies for the same issues.

YEN.com.gh takes a closer look at some of these strategies adopted to deal with earlier pandemics that plagued ancient African societies.

Some of these lessons may be applied to COVID-19, guiding decisions and choices to buffer the vulnerable from the pandemic while allowing economic activity and other aspects of life to continue.

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1. Burning settlements as a disinfectant and shifting settlements to new locations.

Shifting to another region of Africa, archaeological work at early urban settlements in central and southern Ghana identified the impact of pandemics at places such Akrokrowa (AD950 – 1300) and Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa in the central district of Ghana.

These settlements, like others in the Birim Valley of southern Ghana, were bounded by intricate systems of trenches and banks of earth.

Evidence shows that after a couple of centuries of continuous and stable occupation, settlements were abruptly abandoned.

In Europe, the period of abandonment appears to coincide with the devastation of the Black Death at the time.

2. Social distancing was practiced by dispersing settlements.

Social distancing and isolation have become watchwords during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same practice formed a critical part of managing pandemics in historical African societies.

In present-day Zimbabwe, the Shona people in the 17th and 18th centuries isolated those suffering from infectious diseases such as leprosy in temporary residential structures so that very few people could come into contact with the sick.

3. Isolating bodies of the dead.

Archaeologists’ findings at Mwenezi in southern Zimbabwe also show that it was a taboo to touch or interfere with the remains of the dead to stem the spread of deadly diseases.

In some cases, the remains were burnt to avoid spreading the contagion.

Meanwhile, YEN.com.gh earlier reported that the Ghana Health Service (GHS) latest data has revealed the country has recorded 125 new COVID-19 cases to increase the total case counts to 6,808.

The data also indicated that recoveries now stand at 2,070 while the death toll remains at 32, as of Monday, May 25, 2020.

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