Black Death: A Clue to Where the Plague Originated

Black Death: A Clue to Where the Plague Originated


Where and when did Black Death begin? This question has been asked for centuries and has been the subject of heated debate among historians.

Now, a group of researchers has reported finding the answer in the pulp of the teeth of people buried in the 14th century.

Based on their own analysis of the preserved genetic material, researchers report that the Black Death approached Isaac yesterday in 1338 or 1339, a mountainous lake in western China, now Kyrgyzstan. Eight years before the destruction of Eurasia, the plague first struck people in a small, nearby merchant settlement, killing 60 percent of its victims.

The investigation was led by Wolfgang Hawk and Johannes Krauss of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Science of Human History in Germany, as well as Philip Slavin of the University of Sterling in Scotland. On Wednesday, Nature described their results..

Known as the Black Death – named after the black spots that appear on victims’ bodies – it is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia paste, which is transmitted by fleas that live on mice. Is. The disease still exists today, being transmitted by rats on every continent except Australia. But infections are rare because hygiene is good. Infections are easily cured by antibiotics.

The 14th-century plague was, in fact, the second-largest Y. pestis epidemic – the first in the 6th-century Justin plague, said Marie Faisal, a medical historian at Johns Hopkins University. But Black Death is the most famous and considered one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.

His terror was described by Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian writer and poet who had lived through the plague in Florence. Disease, He wroteThe first symptoms appeared in men and women alike, with swelling either in the back or under the armpits, some up to the size of a normal apple and some up to the size of an egg, and people called them bobo. Which became known as the “signs of the coming death.”

Historians traced the route of the epidemic – apparently in China or near China’s western border, and spread along trade routes to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

But Monica H. Green, A medical historian and independent scholar Not included in the new article, note that historians will never be able to answer the question they raised: Was it really Yersinia pesticides that caused this mass epidemic?

“We hit a wall. We’re historians and we deal with documents,” said Dr. Green.

He remembers meeting a pathologist 20 years ago who was studying leprosy, which left scars on his skeleton.

“When will you plague?” Dr. Green asked. He said the paleo pathologist replied that he could not study the plague because a disease that kills people so quickly leaves no marks on the bones.

This stalemate has now been overcome.

The discovery of the plague is “like a detective story,” said Dr. Fassel, who was not involved in the new research. “Now they have really good evidence of the crime scene.”

The hunt goes back more than a decade, when the group that led the latest research surprised archaeologists. His report That they could find the DNA of the plague bacteria in the skeletal teeth.

The study included victims of the plague in London.

Fourteenth-century Londoners knew that Black Death was imminent, so they consecrated a cemetery in advance to prepare for its victims. The bodies were exhumed and are now placed in them. Museum of London. The situation was ideal because not only were the victims from the plague cemetery, but the date of their deaths was also known.

Dr. Green said that as a case study of epidemics, it is absolutely correct.

“The technical expertise gained in this work is amazing,” he added.

Since the London study, the group has analyzed the genetic material of plague victims elsewhere, creating a DNA family tree of different types of plague bacteria. This and other researchers reported that the tree had a trunk and then, at the same time, began to erupt into the four branches of the Y. pestis strains, which are found in mice today. He called the incident the Big Bang and began searching for when and where it happened.

Historians suggest different dates from the 10th to the 14th century.

Dr. Slavin, a latecomer to a group analyzing plague victims in Kyrgyzstan, said one of his dreams was to solve the riddle of the beginning of black death.

“I came across two Christian cemeteries in Kyrgyzstan and I started searching,” he said.

In her astonished joy, she found that hundreds of tombstones were of exact history. Some had written in the old language, in Syriac, that the man had died of a “disease.” And in the year that they died, the population death rate had risen.

“It caught my attention because it wasn’t just a year,” said Dr. Slavin. It was 1338, “just seven or eight years before the Black Death came to Europe.”

“We can’t ask for more than just placing grave stones over the years,” he said.

Researchers found plague DNA in the teeth of three people whose grave stones said they had died of “disease.”

The group also reported that the rats that spread the bacteria among the victims were marmots. Today there are fleas of marmots in the area that have a variety of Y. pestis that are apparently derived directly from ancestral strains.

And researchers report that tensions in Kyrgyzstan stem from the eruption that turned into four tensions. This is the beginning of the Big Bang, the group suggests.

If they are correct, Dr. Faisal said, the Big Bang seems to have occurred just before the Black Death in Eurasia, indicating that the plague was more likely to spread through trade routes, as some historians have suggested. , A century ago through military operations

Dr. Green and other historians have suggested when the Big Bang happened. Mongols in the early 13th century Spread the bacteria. But if that were the case, the bacteria in Kyrgyzstan would be from a single branch, not from ancestral strains.

“Those 1200 battles are irrelevant,” said Dr. Faisal.

Dr Green said he believed the group had found plague victims in Kyrgyzstan. But he said the evidence now available was insufficient to substantiate his bold claims.

“Keep an eye out,” Dr. Green said, adding that she expects more evidence to emerge.

For now, he said, the intelligence community has made significant gains.

The work, he added, “has a pin on the map with history.”

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