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London skeletons change what we know about Black Death

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Last year, 25 skeletons were unearthed in London while workers dug underground to install a new rail line. On March 31, the Washington Post reports that research on those skeletons will change what we think about the origins of the Black Death as well as the destruction it caused.

Black Death, also known as the bubonic plague, spread across England in the 1300's and was said to have wiped out half the population. Once thought to have been spread by fleas found on rats, due to the latest discovery that theory has now been debunked.

According to the Washington Post, the plague originally was thought to be bubonic. Instead, researchers have determined that the plague was in fact pneumonic, meaning it was spread by coughing and sneezing rather than an infestation of bugs or rodents.

Now believed to be an airborne ailment, the Black Death can be compared to a recent similar outbreak. When the disease found in the teeth of the discovered skeletons was compared to known diseases, it was found to be identical to a pneumonic ailment that swept through Madagascar last year.

Additional research on the 25 skeletons revealed a large amount of malnutrition. Scientists believe it was the lack of nutrients that may have caused a break down in immune systems, allowing the plague to spread much faster.

Many of the skeletons showed signs of back problems and injuries. This led them to conclude that 14th century Londoners, for the most part, lived a hard life and often relied upon hard labor to make ends meet. They also showed bodily injuries that point towards a life of fighting and struggle.

It is amazing the questions that scientists have been able to answer just by studying the bones of skeletons from roughly 700 years ago. These new discoveries change everything that the Western world knew and believed about the Black Death of the fourteenth century.



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