[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
December 5, 1966

Pre-Columbian Medical Sculpture

JAMA. 1966;198(10):1130-1131. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110230146048

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


To the Editor:  Working in subtropical Central America, Dr. Peña Chavarría must be familiar with many dermatological lesions rarely seen in the United States. I had previously shown these sculptures at a meeting of the Greater New York Dermatological Society, attended by Drs. Dominique Verut and Fernando Ortiz-Monasterio of Mexico. On this occasion this illustrious group of skin specialists substituted ancient American sculptured figures with dermatological lesions for living patients in the study. A number of specimens of leishmaniasis from the Mohica tribe of northern Peru were exhibited. There was no disagreement on these, although Virchow many years earlier had insisted they represented leprosy. There was little difference of opinion regarding the statues illustrated on the cover of The Journal. Dr. Verut showed similar reproductions of a figure which he thought might represent secondary syphilis. There was no indication from any of the participants that these two figures portrayed leishmaniasis,