Skip to content

SKELETON'S SECRET: Humans, not rats, spread the Black Death

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/1/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists examine evidence from medieval times to recent outbreak in Madagascar

The Black Death in the 14th Century was the most devastating pandemic in human history. Untold millions died from the rapidly spread disease. For centuries, the plague had been blamed on rodents, whose fleas carried bubonic plague. However, 25 skeletons discovered by railway engineers beneath London suggest the Black Death was even more lethal than previously thought.

The skeletons, by and large, were poor people. Many of the skeletons showed signs of malnutrition consistent with the 'Great Famine' that struck Europe 30 years before the Black Death.

The skeletons, by and large, were poor people. Many of the skeletons showed signs of malnutrition consistent with the "Great Famine" that struck Europe 30 years before the Black Death.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/1/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Bubonic plague, skeletons, United Kingdom


LOS ANGELES, ca (Catholic Online) - After analyzing the teeth of the corpses, scientists believe the bubonic plague mutated into a more virulent strain that passed easily from human to human.

The "pneumonic" form of plague infected the lungs of sufferers. The disease could be easily spread by merely coughing. In medieval Europe's crowded, packed cities this proved to be unavoidable. It also had a much lower survival rate and could kill within 24 hours.

No child need ever go to bed hungry -- go here!

It's estimated that the lives of around 75 million people were claimed by the plague in the 14th century. The researchers say only the more contagious strain can explain why so many died.

In the new BBC documentary, "Secret History: Return of the Black Death," the telecast will focus on the Crossrail project where 25 skeletons were discovered while workers dug 26 miles of tunnels beneath the capital.

Discovered close to Smithfield Market last year, the skeletons were found in neat rows on two levels sealed under a layer of clay. Thousands of bodies are thought to have been interred at an emergency burial site there.

Teeth from 12 of the skeletons were sent for analysis and four tested positive for Yersinia pestis, the deadly bacteria responsible for both bubonic and pneumonic plague. Researchers concluded that the bubonic strain could not have had the devastating impact seen during the Black Death.

"As an explanation for the Black Death in its own right, [bubonic plague is] simply not good enough," Dr. Tim Brooks, an expert in infectious diseases at Public Health England, said.

"It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics."

"In a small number of people the organism will spread to their lungs and they will then develop a pneumonia. It is that critical switch, that if there were enough people in contact with "hem, that allows it to spread as a pneumonic plague.'

Fellow researcher Don Walker, of the Museum of London Archaeology, said the pneumonic form was "more lethal," adding, that "There was no chance of recovery."

Archaeologists, historians, microbiologists and physicists worked together to apply techniques from several scientific disciplines to the discovery.

The skeletons, by and large, were poor people. Many of the skeletons showed signs of malnutrition consistent with the "Great Famine" that struck Europe 30 years before the Black Death. Many had back injuries suggesting lives of hard labor.

Archaeologists were surprised to discover that the skeletons lay in layers and appeared to come from three different periods: the original Black Death epidemic in 1348-1350, and later outbreaks in 1361 and the early 15th century.

"It suggests that the burial ground was used again and again for the burial of plague victims," Jay Carver, Crossrail's lead archaeologist says.

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for APRIL 2017
Young People.
That young people may respond generously to their vocations and seriously consider offering themselves to God in the priesthood or consecrated life.


Comments


More Europe

Workers accidentally discover an Archbishop's lost tomb -- in London Watch

Image of A gold mitre rested atop one of the lead coffins in the crypt. How did it get there?

The remains of five Archbishops of Canterbury have been found under a medieval church during renovations. The find is remarkable because of ... continue reading


BREAKING: Terrorist attack in Stockholm as truck plows though crowd Watch

Image of People flee as the terrorist attacker drives into a department store.

At least five people are dead following an apparent terrorist attack in Stockholm. A terrorist has driven a hijacked truck though a crowded ... continue reading


What did Prince Charles give Pope Francis during his Vatican visit? Watch

Image of Prince Charles meets Pope Francis (AFP).

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, paid Pope Francis a visit as part of their Italian tour. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Bishop collapses during special papal Mass on renewal and rebuilding Watch

Image of Pope Francis witnesses a bishop collapse at the altar (Reuters).

Pope Francis delivered an open-air Mass in Carpi, northern Italy when a bishop collapsed near the altar. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


'Adoration of the Magi,' painted by master painter Leonardo da Vinci, makes first public appearance in years Watch

Image of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece

Leonardo da Vinci is known for his many beautiful works, one of which is the "Adoration of the Magi," which has not been seen by the public ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.