Plague: The Black Death

EnolaGaia

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This new research has determined the seminal strain of plague from which the European plagues derived was located in the lower Volga region. This may not be where this especially virulent strain originated, but it seems to be the location from which the plague migrated into Europe.
Ancient DNA traces the Black Death to Russia’s Volga region

In the 14th century, the Black Death wiped out as much as 60% of the population of Europe, spreading rapidly from the shores of the Black Sea to central Europe. Although historical records first document its appearance in 1346 C.E. in the lower Volga region of Russia, researchers didn’t know whether the highly virulent strain of Yersinia pestis bacterium that caused the deadly pandemic came from a single source or was introduced to Europe more than once by travelers carrying diverse strains of plague from different parts of the ancient world.

Now, by analyzing 34 ancient genomes of Y. pestis from the teeth of people buried at 10 sites across Europe from the 14th to 17th centuries (including a mass grave in Toulouse, France—above), researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, have found the earliest known evidence of this pandemic comes from Laishevo, in Russia’s Volga region. There, researchers found a strain of Y. pestis that was ancestral to all other genomes they studied, differing by only one mutation from those that caused the Black Death in Europe, they report today in Nature Communications.

That doesn’t mean the Volga region was ground zero for the Black Death—it could have come from elsewhere in western Asia, where scientists have yet to sample ancient DNA of Y. pestis. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/ancient-dna-traces-black-death-russia-s-volga-region
 
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It hasn't gone away ye know.

(CNN)Two people in China are being treated for plague, authorities said Tuesday. It's the second time the disease, the same one that caused the Black Death, one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, has been detected in the region -- in May, a Mongolian couple died from bubonic plague after eating the raw kidney of a marmot, a local folk health remedy.

The two recent patients, from the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, were diagnosed with pneumonic plague by doctors in the Chinese capital Beijing, according to state media Xinhua. They are now receiving treatment in Beijing's Chaoyang District, and authorities have implemented preventative control measures.

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/13/health/china-plague-intl-hnk-scn-scli/index.html
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/08/health/bubonic-plague-explainer-trnd/index.html
 

EnolaGaia

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A newly published study challenges the widely stated claims the first of the 3 major plague pandemics - the Justinianic Plague - was responsible for the final collapse of the Roman Empire.
The plague probably didn't wipe out the Roman Empire and half the world's population, new study suggests

Plague is often depicted as shifting the course of human history, but scholars say an outbreak that has been blamed for the demise of the Roman Empire likely didn't kill half the world's population in just a few years.

A new study published Monday explores the effects of the first recorded plague pandemic, known as the Justinianic Plague, that was thought to have swept the world starting from the year 541. Many scholars believe the outbreak was a landmark event that led to significant demographic, economic and political changes in the period known as Late Antiquity -- much as the Black Death devastated Europe in the Middle Ages.

"If this plague was a key moment in human history that killed between a third and half the population of the Mediterranean world in just a few years, as is often claimed, we should have evidence for it -- but our survey of data sets found none," said Lee Mordechai, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland's National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center.

An international team of historians looked at a diverse range of data to investigate the effects of the outbreak, including historical texts, coin circulation, burial practices, pollen samples, stone inscriptions, mortuary archaeology and plague genomes.

They found that the number of deaths caused by the outbreak may have been overestimated, and that the plague did not play a significant role in the transformation of the Mediterranean world or Europe. It also didn't play a key role in the fall of the Roman Empire. ...

"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. We find little evidential support for the claim that the JP [Justinianic Plague] was a watershed event," the study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded.

The authors said previous scholars focused on the most evocative written accounts, applying them to other places in the Mediterranean world while ignoring hundreds of contemporary texts that did not mention the Justinianic Plague. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/02/world/plague-roman-empire-scn/index.html
 

EnolaGaia

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The study challenging the historical effects of the Justinianic Plague can be accessed at:

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/11/26/1903797116

You can download it as a PDF file at:

https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/early/2019/11/26/1903797116.full.pdf

Here's the abstract ...

Abstract

Existing mortality estimates assert that the Justinianic Plague (circa 541 to 750 CE) caused tens of millions of deaths throughout the Mediterranean world and Europe, helping to end antiquity and start the Middle Ages. In this article, we argue that this paradigm does not fit the evidence. We examine a series of independent quantitative and qualitative datasets that are directly or indirectly linked to demographic and economic trends during this two-century period: Written sources, legislation, coinage, papyri, inscriptions, pollen, ancient DNA, and mortuary archaeology. Individually or together, they fail to support the maximalist paradigm: None has a clear independent link to plague outbreaks and none supports maximalist reconstructions of late antique plague. Instead of large-scale, disruptive mortality, when contextualized and examined together, the datasets suggest continuity across the plague period. Although demographic, economic, and political changes continued between the 6th and 8th centuries, the evidence does not support the now commonplace claim that the Justinianic Plague was a primary causal factor of them.
 

staticgirl

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Ah this is great - thanks. I have been wondering what happened in the Justinianic plague recently. I don't know anything about it.
 
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