Historian Finds 279-Year-Old Cockroach

A cockroach that traveled aboard a slave-trading ship from La Rochelle to the Guinea coast in 1743 has been found sandwiched between the pages of the vessel’s log.

Oliver Finnegan, a prized paper specialist for the National Archives, says he found the 18th Century insect when he was browsing through the ship’s records, which hadn’t been opened in at least two centuries.

“I opened the book and saw this huge bug,” Finnegan says. “It was kind of a skin-crawling moment because of its unexpectedness. It’s bigger than it looks in the pictures.” It turns out the bug, which Finnegan has named “Peri,” was an American cockroach — probably before the species actually got to America.

Cockroaches, which originated in Africa, came to North America aboard slave ships, researchers say.

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