Mass grave excavated in Lincolnshire - how did these people die?
Archaeologists have uncovered a mass grave in England where the population of an entire small community was buried after being wiped out by the plague. The site revealed the cause of death for the population as well as the sufferings and afflictions these people endured in their lives.
The plague wiped out entire villages within days.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A mass grave filled with 48 skeletons has been unearthed in Thornton Abbey near the town of Immingham, England. The grave was filled with skeletons of both sexes and all ages.
Tests revealed the deceased all died from Yersinia Pestis, the bacteria that causes the black plague.
The black plague is thought to have originated on the steppes of Russia and was carried by fleas that were in turn carried by rats. When flea-ridden rats boarded European ships in the Black Sea, the disease was carried to Italy and France. From there it spread across most of Europe with the exception of a few pockets.
Several of the dead showed signs of other ailments such as malnutrition, which was common.
Those infected with the bacteria suffered painful swelling of their lymph nodes, their skin turned black with bruises, and they began to cough violently. Victims usually died within a week. Other, more deadly forms of the plague emerged such as when the bacteria was inhaled directly into the lungs. These victims skipped most of the painful process and went straight to pneumonia which caused death within 24 to 48 hours.
The black plague, if untreated, has a mortality rate of 90 to 100 percent.
The grave dates back to 1349, when the Black Death ravaged the area.
In the town of Immingham, it appears an entire community was wiped out within a short span of time. The mass grave is filled with victims of both sexes and all ages. This suggests they were buried at the same time, laid next to one another then covered.
The black death could wipe out an entire village in as little as a week or so. In many cases, entire cities were depopulated.
Archaeologists excavating the grave at Thronton Abbey believe the monastery hospital where these people died would have been overwhelmed with victims. There were no treatments for the disease at that time as there was no understanding of pathogens.
A few people discovered than lancing their swollen lymph nodes and draining the pus, along with taking water and small quantities of food tremendously aided the odds of survival. However, few people had the energy or help to accomplish this treatment and it was discovered largely by accident. The treatment was not used in more than a couple cases.
Hospitals of the time were more places where people could die with a modicum of care. Medicine was often weak and ineffective if not harmful in many cases. Patients were often placed together in the same beds, or laid on pallets arranged on the floor. Still, such care was sometimes better than nothing at all.
The mass gave was filled with the bodies of an entire community.
Skeletons also revealed signs of malnutrition and diseases that were common at the time. Without social services, people were at the mercy of their neighbors who may also be struggling to eat. Famines could be triggered by a single poor harvest. In the years following the black death, many survivors of the disease died because there were too few people to perform agricultural labor. This labor shortage led to a decline in food production and caused a famine that spanned the whole of Europe.
Many people assumed the plague was the end of the world or the judgment of God. With nearly 200 million people lost in the space of a few years' time, it is easy to understand their fear.
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