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Plague pit unearthed in England

A 14th-century Black Death plague pit containing the remains of 48 people has been found in eastern England. A plague pit containing the skeletons of 48 Black Death victims, including 21 children, has been discovered at the site of a 14th century monastery hospital. The macabre find in Thornton Abbey, near Immingham

Gerbils may be to blame for the Black Death

New research suggests that gerbils, not rats, may be the main cause of the Black Death, and that they arrived along the Silk Road in the mid-14th century. "We show that wherever there were good conditions for gerbils and fleas in central Asia, some years later the bacteria shows up in

Crossrail project unearths Black Death burials

Excavations for London's Crossrail project have uncovered bodies dating back to the time of the Black Death. Thirteen bodies have been found so far in the 5.5m-wide shaft at the edge of Charterhouse Square, alongside pottery dated to the mid-14th Century. Analysis will shed light on the plague and the Londoners of

Black Death bacterium genetically mapped

Scientists have genetically mapped the bacterium responsible for the Black Death. Mapping Black Death marks the first time an ancient pathogen has been reconstructed in its entirety and will allow researchers to track changes in its evolution and virulence over time. The study, published in the science journal Nature, sheds light on

Black Death spread through people, not rats

A new study suggests that the Black Death of 1348-49 was spread through person-to-person contact, not by rats. "The evidence just isn't there to support it," said Barney Sloane, author of The Black Death in London. "We ought to be finding great heaps of dead rats in all the waterfront sites

Fleas responsible for spread of Black Death

Researchers have confirmed that the plague that wiped out 60% of the population of Europe was transmitted by fleas. Their findings, published in an online journal, provide final proof that the plague spread via the transmission of the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which was passed on through bites from fleas carried by

The birth of the plague: China

Medical geneticists have traced the origins of the plague to China. The strain of bacterium analyzed from the bones and teeth of a Hereford plague pit dug in 1349 is identical to that from a plague pit of 1348 in southern France, suggesting a direct route of travel. But a

Black Death bacteria identified

Anthropologists have confirmed that a germ called Yersinia pestis cause the plauge that wiped out a third of Europe during the Middle Ages. Teeth and bones sampled from 76 skeletons found in "plague pits" in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands and sequenced for DNA intrusion are conclusive evidence that