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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: blackdeath; blackplague; bubonicplague; godsgravesglyphs; health; medicine; plague; skeleton; yersiniapestis
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1 posted on 01/28/2008 10:00:38 PM PST by forkinsocket
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To: forkinsocket

2 posted on 01/28/2008 10:03:20 PM PST by Lijahsbubbe
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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
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To: Lijahsbubbe

Six anorexic models lounging in the sun?


4 posted on 01/28/2008 10:08:51 PM PST by MARTIAL MONK
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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.)
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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.")
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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
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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
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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.)
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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.)
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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. =()
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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.)
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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
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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.)
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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)
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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!)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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To: forkinsocket

The Black Plague originated in Central America and was brought to Europe by early traders. Pre-Columbian for sure and thus deniable.


21 posted on 01/29/2008 10:17:35 AM PST by RightWhale (oil--the world currency)
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To: forkinsocket

What a morbid hobby.


22 posted on 01/29/2008 10:19:22 AM PST by Palladin (Rudy on abortion: "I believe in a woman's right to choose.")
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To: wideminded
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.

No antibiotics, no sanitation, poor nutrition, grinding poverty, little heating, harsh winters, crowded living conditions, frequent cuts, scrapes, and minor burns, and only half of them were sickly? Not bad!

23 posted on 01/29/2008 10:21:20 AM PST by null and void (Conservatism. It's the new Black...)
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To: forkinsocket
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.
It's also been suggested that an earlier deadly flu outbreak late in the 19th century wound up, in effect, vaccinating those around at the time who'd contracted it, such that their immune systems laughed off the Spanish Lady. Thanks forkinsocket.
24 posted on 01/29/2008 10:21:28 AM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__________________Profile updated Wednesday, January 16, 2008)
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To: Palladin

Europe also had a large leper population but the black plague killed them all off.


25 posted on 01/29/2008 10:23:49 AM PST by american_ranger (Never ever use DirecTV)
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To: wafflehouse
"...A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe..."

Hey, thanks; I just skimmed the entire thing via Google Books. Very interesting!

26 posted on 01/29/2008 10:59:28 AM PST by -=SoylentSquirrel=-
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To: the_Watchman
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.

I tell people that plumbers have saved more lives than doctors. Which is a painful admission for a doctor to make!

27 posted on 01/29/2008 11:15:11 AM PST by jalisco555 ("My 80% friend is not my 20% enemy" - Ronald Reagan)
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To: wafflehouse

Interesting doesn’t even come close. It should be required reading in High school to open kids minds to what real hardship is. Defoe had a lot of firsthand accounts to draw from.


28 posted on 01/29/2008 11:21:22 AM PST by fella (Is he al-taquiya or is he murtadd? Only his iman knows for sure.)
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To: wideminded
It wiped out approx. 1/3 the population of Europe and England. Many small towns and villages simply disappeared. We still see the effects of the plague today - with the emphasis on how Christ is portrayed in modern church art. Pre-Black Death, Christ was generally seen as a happy, arms-outstretched, inspirational person (The Sermon of the Mount Christ). Post-Black Death, the art rendering changed dramatically, focusing not only on his death, but his hideous torture, suffering and crown of thorns. (The Crucifixion Christ).
29 posted on 01/29/2008 12:19:56 PM PST by MrsEmmaPeel
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To: forkinsocket; SunkenCiv; aculeus; dighton; Constitution Day; Tijeras_Slim

29 + posts, and not one "BRING OUT YOUR DEAD" graphic??

People. You're slipping.

30 posted on 01/29/2008 12:36:02 PM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: martin_fierro

Most interesting.


31 posted on 01/29/2008 3:11:29 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: Peacekeeper357

another cat myth...I’ve heard it before, but the last time it was blamed for the plague when they were killing witches, about two hundred years later and it was called the plague of London...except that plague was not Bubonic plague.

The plague started in China, spread with Ghengis Khan and ended up in Iceland.

I don’t think killing a few stray cats would make a difference...


32 posted on 01/29/2008 10:33:29 PM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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To: martin_fierro

Yeah, you’re right, that is pretty bad on our part.


33 posted on 01/29/2008 11:12:06 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/__________________Profile updated Wednesday, January 16, 2008)
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