Black Death

October 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Photograph of one of the mass graves discovered by archaeologists near the Tower of London

Black Death Bacterium Identified: Genetic Analysis of Medieval Plague Skeletons Shows Presence of Yersinia Pestis Bacteria

ScienceDaily (Aug. 29, 2011) — A team of German and Canadian scientists has shown that today’s plague pathogen has been around at least 600 years.

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The Black Death, 1348–1350

In 1347 news reached England of a horrifying and incurable disease that was spreading from Asia through North Africa and Europe. The Black Death struck London in the autumn of 1348. No one knew how to stop the disease. During the next 18 months it killed half of all Londoners – perhaps 40,000 people. There were so many dead that Londoners had to dig mass graves (large trenches for many bodies). This picture shows one of these graves, which was excavated by archaeologists at the Royal Mint site near the Tower of London. In some of the trenches, the bodies were piled on top of each other, up to five deep. Children’s bodies were placed in the small spaces between adults. By 1350 the Black Death had killed millions of people, possibly half the population of the known world. The term ‘Black Death’ was first used in the 1800s. Medieval people called the disease the ‘Great Pestilence’. Museum of London

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