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December 5, 1966

Pre-Columbian Medical Sculpture

Author Affiliations

San José, Costa Rica

JAMA. 1966;198(10):1130. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110230146047

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To the Editor:  Your color cover of Aug 1 showed an interesting pair of archeological figures from the state of Nayarit in western Mexico. The figures illustrated generalized lesions of a circumscribed maculopapular type, which it was thought resembled smallpox in its plaquelike stage, but might represent a form of a treponematosis such as yaws, in the opinion of Dr. Abner I. Weisman, the collector of the figures.The generalized skin lesions may well be a form of yaws, but there is also reason to believe that they could represent cutaneous American leishmaniasis, which existed among the Indians of pre-Columbian America. In one of its forms this disease invades and destroys the tissues of the nose, as indicated in the mutilated faces of archeological figures found in Peru.Although the caption states that no one knows the reason for the manufacture of these figures, my studies are in agreement with