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Origins of the Infamous Black Death Finally Found!

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The Black Death, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, was the initial wave of a nearly 500-year-long pandemic, also called the second plague pandemic. The Black Death killed millions in Europe, Asia, and North Africa and was considered one of the largest infectious disease catastrophes in human history.

In spite of years of research into the catastrophe, the geographical and chronological origins of the plague remained a mystery. But researchers now claim that they believe the Black Death first originated in North Kyrgyzstan in the late 1330s.

The team, from the Scotland’s University of Stirling and Germany’s Max Planck Institute, and the University of Tubingen, analysed ancient DNA (aDNA) taken from the teeth of skeletons discovered in cemeteries near Lake Issyk Kul in the Tian Shan region of Kyrgyzstan.

Professors of these European universities were drawn to these archaeological sites after identifying a huge spike of burials traced between 1338-39. the researchers were able to trace the already excavated graves and analyze DNA taken from the teeth of seven individuals.

The sequencing, which determines the DNA structure, showed three individuals carrying Yersinia pestis, the infectious bacterium. “Our study puts to rest one of the biggest and most fascinating questions in history and determines when and where the single most notorious and infamous killer of humans began,” said Dr. Slavin, one of the team members.

Part of the work involved studying the ‘historical diaries’ of the original excavations and matching the skeletons to their headstones. Also, historians had to use their interpretation skills to understand the inscriptions written in the Syriac language.

SEI 109910022

Credits: Metro


Dr. Maria Spyrou, of the University of Tubingen, and the first author of the study, said, “Most excitingly, we found aDNA of the plague bacterium in three individuals.” Professor Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explained that just like the Covid pandemic, the Black Death was an emerging disease, and marked the onset of a deadly pandemic that continued for some 500 years.

The researchers were curious to find the circumstances under which the pandemic emerged. However, researchers say that the analysis has limitations, including the small sample size.

The research study, The source of the Black Death in 14th-century central Eurasia, has been published in the journal Nature.

References: Metro, USA Today

Featured Image Source: Firstpost

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