Saturday 5 April 2014

London skeletons reveal the 'Black Death'

Twenty-five skeletons uncovered in London last year appear to have been part of a larger burial ground for plague victims, according to laboratory tests.
DNA sequenced from teeth pulled from the remains of the skeletons confirmed the presence of Yersinia pestis, this is the bacteria that causes both bubonic and pneumonic forms of plague. The skeletons were found when tunnels were being dug for London’s new Crossrail train line. Before the discovery, it was unclear where the city’s plague victims had been buried.
Commenting on the finding, Jay Carver, Crossrail’s lead archaeologist said: "This discovery is a hugely important step forward in documenting and understanding Europe’s most devastating pandemic."

The Black Death peaked in Europe between 1348 and 1350, wiping out about 60 percent of London’s population. The Black Death was a pneumonic version of the disease—an airborne infection of the lungs, spread via coughing and sneezing—instead of bubonic—an infection that enters through the skin, infects the lymph system and is spread by rat fleas, according to a science paper by Digital Journalist Tim Sandle.
The London discovery follows on from a Digital Journal report from earlier this year. Here it was reported that dozens of skeletons had been found close to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and, according to archaeologists the medieval mass grave may stretch underneath the renowned museum.

Posted by Tim Sandle

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