Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Clues to Black Plague’s Fury in 650-Year-Old Skeletons
NY Times ^ | January 29, 2008 | NICHOLAS BAKALAR

Posted on 01/28/2008 10:00:36 PM PST by forkinsocket

Many historians have assumed that Europe’s deadliest plague, the Black Death of 1347 to 1351, killed indiscriminately, young and old, hardy and frail, healthy and sick alike. But two anthropologists were not so sure. They decided to take a closer look at the skeletons of people buried more than 650 years ago.

Their findings, published on Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the plague selectively took the already ill, while many of the otherwise healthy survived the infection.

Although it may not be surprising that healthy people would be more likely to survive an illness, it is not always the case. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed thousands of healthy people in their prime while sparing many children and the elderly, whose weaker immune systems did not overreact to the infection. Sexually transmitted infections like H.I.V. disproportionately affect the strongest and healthiest, for the obvious reason that they are the most sexually active.

Plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis, and it is usually transmitted to humans by fleas; flea-infested rats caused the 14th-century epidemic. The bacteria invade the bloodstream, causing internal bleeding that leads to shock and death.

In the new study, the researchers examined 490 skeletons exhumed from the East Smithfield cemetery in London. The site, like many other cemeteries, was set up to bury victims of the Black Death and was almost certainly used for no other purpose.

The scientists determined the victims’ state of health when they died by counting bone lesions, defects that suggest previous infections and other existing health problems. The researchers also estimated age at death by noting dental development and using other established methods.

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: antonineplague; blackdeath; blackplague; bubonicplague; godsgravesglyphs; health; helixmakemineadouble; medicine; plague; plagueofathens; plagueofjustinian; skeleton; yersiniapestis
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-33 next last
.
1 posted on 01/28/2008 10:00:38 PM PST by forkinsocket
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket

2 posted on 01/28/2008 10:03:20 PM PST by Lijahsbubbe
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket
Their findings, published on Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the plague selectively took the already ill,

I recall reading in school that this plague killed half the people in England, so it seems unlikely that all of these people (IIRC 4 million of them) were already ill.

3 posted on 01/28/2008 10:07:52 PM PST by wideminded
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Lijahsbubbe

Six anorexic models lounging in the sun?


4 posted on 01/28/2008 10:08:51 PM PST by MARTIAL MONK
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket

Note to self: Get buried in a nice secret location with a lot of rickey terrain so I’m not dug up 600+ years later.


5 posted on 01/28/2008 10:10:08 PM PST by Centurion2000 (It's only arrogance if you can't back it up.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: wideminded

The average around Europe was about one-third dead, with some place essentially depopulated. Prior to modern antibiotics, pesticides, and antiparasitics (mostly tapeworm), I wouldn’t be surprised at all if half the population had some kind of chronic infection or infestation. That doesn’t even include diseases cause by dietary deficiencies such as vit.C or iodine.


6 posted on 01/28/2008 10:18:10 PM PST by VanShuyten ("Ah! but it was something to have at least a choice of nightmares.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket
Well, the grand conclusion was that the Plague killed off unhealthy people more than healthy ones. That isn't exactly controversial. The interesting thing about Yersinia pestis is that it multiplies with fantastic rapidity in the body and simply overwhelms the immune system. It does that in fleas as well - the reason they bite humans is that the organism multiplies so rapidly it physically blocks their proboscises. The little buggers bite humans where they wouldn't normally because they're starving to death. Incredible.
7 posted on 01/28/2008 10:23:19 PM PST by Billthedrill
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: VanShuyten

A lack of sanitary plumbing, the habit of digging wells next to cesspools, living in cramped quarters in crowded cities, and a lack of understanding the necessity of hygiene caused a large part of the population to be “under the weather” a good part of the time.

Alton Brown - “Good Eats” episode on water


8 posted on 01/28/2008 10:24:30 PM PST by the_Watchman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Ping!


9 posted on 01/28/2008 10:29:05 PM PST by JennysCool (They all say they want change, but they’re really after folding money.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill
Well, the grand conclusion was that the Plague killed off unhealthy people more than healthy ones.

This is why I'm not a research scientist: I never would have been able to figure out that one. Honestly, the reason I think two-thirds of the population were spared is that plague isn't really easy to catch. For the most part, you've got to either get bitten by an infected flea, or inhale droplets from the coughing or sneezing of someone who happens to be suffering from the pneumonic variety of plague. Once you've got it, healthy or not, you're probably going to die unless, as in this day and age, you immediately get medical attention and start antibiotic treatment. I've read a modern case history of a perfectly young and healthy individual catching the disease (via flea bite), showing up in the emergency room and being treated for flu. A day or so later, after the buboes were obvious, it was too late to do anything for him.

10 posted on 01/28/2008 10:48:00 PM PST by Mr Ramsbotham (Laws against sodomy are honored in the breech.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill

fleas have rights too!

can't we all just get along? ;)

11 posted on 01/28/2008 11:30:55 PM PST by robomatik (......uh since fred and duncan are out, i think i need a new tagline. =()
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket
Just prior to this,early 1300’s, England was having a big problem with stray cats, so it got all the people to kill the cats. No more cats. The rats then became the problem and with them the flees. Also the old nursery song “Ring around the rosie” came from the black death.
12 posted on 01/28/2008 11:59:44 PM PST by Peacekeeper357 (God provided food for every bird but he didn't put it in their nest.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket
Sexually transmitted infections like H.I.V. disproportionately affect the strongest and healthiest, for the obvious reason that they are the most sexually active.

oh, that's the at-risk group.

13 posted on 01/29/2008 1:56:36 AM PST by gusopol3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket

thanks, bfl


14 posted on 01/29/2008 1:57:17 AM PST by neverdem (I have to hope for a brokered GOP Convention. It can't get any worse.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

ping


15 posted on 01/29/2008 1:59:27 AM PST by kalee (The offenses we give, we write in the dust; Those we take, we write in marble. JHuett)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket
This is a very interesting book..

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
16 posted on 01/29/2008 3:08:34 AM PST by wafflehouse (When in danger, When in doubt, Run in circles, Scream and Shout!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: forkinsocket
a pattern of excess mortality was associated with different kinds of lesions suggests that the plague more often killed the weak than the strong

Like, duh. Did they consider the population of neighborhood could have been made up of poor elderly people living in close proximity to each other? As for their take on AIDS, it's not that the more healthy are being infected but the lack of morals.

17 posted on 01/29/2008 4:43:44 AM PST by mtbopfuyn (I think the border is kind of an artificial barrier - San Antonio councilwoman Patti Radle)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: wafflehouse

Yes, it is! Worthwhile reading indeed.


19 posted on 01/29/2008 9:23:00 AM PST by TruthConquers (Delendae sunt publici scholae)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: JennysCool; kalee; martin_fierro; Coleus; blam; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Thanks JennysCool and Kalee. This should be called "Plague of Color" though. ;') Got fork (da da da da) in socket (da da da da) ping.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are Blam, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

· Google · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Mirabilis · Texas AM Anthropology News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo ·
· History or Science & Nature Podcasts · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·


20 posted on 01/29/2008 10:14:18 AM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__________________Profile updated Wednesday, January 16, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-33 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson