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Cause of the big plague epidemic of Middle Ages identified
PhysOrg.com ^ | October 11, 2010 | NA

Posted on 10/20/2010 12:55:40 AM PDT by neverdem


Geographical position of the five archaeological sites investigated. Green dots indicate the sites. Also indicated are two likely independent infection routes (black and red dotted arrows) for the spread of the Black Death (1347-1353) after Benedictow.
©: PLoS Pathogens

The 'Black Death' was caused by at least two previously unknown types of Yersinia pestis bacteria.

The latest tests conducted by anthropologists at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have proven that the bacteria Yersinia pestis was indeed the causative agent behind the "Black Death" that raged across Europe in the Middle Ages. The cause of the epidemic has always remained highly controversial and other pathogens were often named as possible causes, in particular for the northern European regions. Using DNA and protein analyses from skeletons of plague victims, an international team led by the scientists from Mainz has now conclusively shown that Yersinia pestis was responsible for the Black Death in the 14th century and the subsequent epidemics that continued to erupt throughout the European continent for the next 400 years. The tests conducted on genetic material from mass graves in five countries also identified at least two previously unknown types of Yersinia pestis that occurred as pathogens.

"Our findings indicate that the plague traveled to Europe over at least two channels, which then went their own individual ways," explains Dr. Barbara Bramanti from the Institute of Anthropology of Mainz University. The works, published in the open access journal PLoS Pathogens, now provide the necessary basis for conducting a detailed historical reconstruction of how this illness spread.

For a number of years, Barbara Bramanti has been researching major epidemics that were rampant throughout Europe and their possible selective consequences as part of a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). For the recently published work, 76 human skeletons were examined from suspected mass graves for plague victims in England, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. While other infections such as leprosy can be easily identified long after death by the deformed bones, the problem faced in the search for plague victims lies in the fact that the illness can lead to death within just a few days and leaves no visible traces. With luck, DNA of the pathogen may still be present for many years in the dental pulp or traces of proteins in the bones. Even then it is difficult to detect, and may be distorted through possible contamination. The team led by Bramanti found their results by analyzing old genetic material, also known as ancient DNA (aDNA): Ten specimens from France, England, and the Netherlands showed a Yersinia pestis-specific gene. Because the samples from Parma, Italy and Augsburg, Germany gave no results, they were subjected to another method known as immunochromatography (similar to the method used in home pregnancy tests for example), this time with success.

Once the infection with Yersinia pestis had been conclusively proven, Stephanie Hänsch and Barbara Bramanti used an analysis of around 20 markers to test if one of the known bacteria types "orientalis" or "medievalis" was present. But neither of these two types was found. Instead, two unknown forms were identified, which are older and differ from the modern pathogens found in Africa, America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union regions. One of these two types, which are thought to have contributed significantly to the catastrophic course of the plague in the 14th century, most probably no longer exists today. The other appears to have similarities with types that were recently isolated in Asia.

In their reconstruction, Hänsch and Bramanti show an infection path that runs from the initial transportation of the pathogen from Asia to Marseille in November 1347, through western France to northern France and over to England. Because a different type of Yersinia pestis was found in Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands, the two scientists believe that the South of the Netherlands was not directly infected from England or France, but rather from the North. This would indicate another infection route, which ran from Norway via Friesland and down to the Netherlands. Further investigations are required to uncover the complete route of the epidemic. "The history of this pandemic," stated Hänsch, "is much more complicated than we had previously thought."

More information: Haensch, S., Bianucci, R., et al. (2010) Distinct Clones of Yersinia pestis Caused the Black Death PLoS Pathog 6(10): e1001134. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001134


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: 536ad; blackdeath; blackplague; bubonicplague; godsgravesglyphs; helixmakemineadouble; immunochromatography; microbiology; yersiniapestis
Distinct Clones of Yersinia pestis Caused the Black Death
1 posted on 10/20/2010 12:55:44 AM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem
A little know fact, the Jews living in Europe during this time had very low infection rates and as a result were blamed for the plague itself.

The reason for their low infection rate was that they followed the health laws spelled out in Leviticus, mainly the practice of quarintine, washing with running water, burning of items that touched a sick person, and burying of human waste.

2 posted on 10/20/2010 1:03:08 AM PDT by LukeL (Barack Obama: Jimmy Carter 2 Electric Boogaloo)
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To: Mother Abigail; EBH; vetvetdoug; Smokin' Joe; Global2010; Battle Axe; null and void; ...

micro ping


3 posted on 10/20/2010 1:03:08 AM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: LukeL
mainly the practice of quarintine, washing with running water, burning of items that touched a sick person, and burying of human waste

AKA, hygiene...now a lost art among many.

4 posted on 10/20/2010 1:31:06 AM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: LukeL

Not to mention that the Jews didn’t make the mistake of killing off the cats which killed the transport mechanism of the plague - rats.


5 posted on 10/20/2010 1:33:58 AM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: SunkenCiv

Happy News about the Black Plague!


6 posted on 10/20/2010 2:29:31 AM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus)
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To: neverdem

What’s your guess about the persistence of viral pathogens in an archaeologic site ? Just a few days at most? (I mean from the time of burial, like small pox)


7 posted on 10/20/2010 2:36:16 AM PDT by gusopol3
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To: neverdem
There is an excellent book on the Plague called"Justinian's Flea" which indicates that the plague came in grain ships from Egypt (and further south) and hit Constantinople and spread from there.

It seems counter intuitive that the cold weather countries would nurture a flea carried pest in such numbers.

8 posted on 10/20/2010 2:41:07 AM PDT by Jimmy Valentine (DemocRATS - when they speak, they lie; when they are silent, they are stealing the American Dream)
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To: LukeL

Quarantine.


9 posted on 10/20/2010 2:58:19 AM PDT by arthurus (Read Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson.")
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To: Jimmy Valentine

Norwegian rats were supposedly the carrier in northern Europe, because they tended to be the rodents that hitched rides on ships.


10 posted on 10/20/2010 3:40:16 AM PDT by SatinDoll (NO FOREIGN NATIONALS AS OUR PRESIDENT!)
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To: gusopol3
"Just a few days at most? (I mean from the time of burial, like small pox)

I believe I have seen articles of flu virii being recovered from bodies that died in the 1918 flu pandemic. These bodies were recovered from Alaskan burial sites, so the longevity results may not reflect other geographical locations.

11 posted on 10/20/2010 5:16:13 AM PDT by Wonder Warthog
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To: Jimmy Valentine
"It seems counter intuitive that the cold weather countries would nurture a flea carried pest in such numbers."

Norwegian rats....tough critters. Have spread virtually worldwide on ocean shipping.

12 posted on 10/20/2010 5:17:53 AM PDT by Wonder Warthog
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To: Wonder Warthog; SatinDoll; Jimmy Valentine
Norwegian rats....tough critters. Have spread virtually worldwide on ocean shipping.

Norwegian rats were supposedly the carrier in northern Europe, because they tended to be the rodents that hitched rides on ships.

I bet they were Lutheran...............

13 posted on 10/20/2010 5:35:40 AM PDT by Red Badger (WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE GIVE MEGHAN MCCAIN A BOX OF KRISPY KREMES SO SHE'LL SHUT THE HELL UP?!)
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To: neverdem

bump


14 posted on 10/20/2010 6:04:10 AM PDT by jim_trent
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To: SunkenCiv

ping


15 posted on 10/20/2010 6:04:46 AM PDT by Fractal Trader
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To: LukeL
The reason for their low infection rate was that they followed the health laws spelled out in Leviticus, mainly the practice of quarintine, washing with running water, burning of items that touched a sick person, and burying of human waste.

Living in ghettos with social isolation from the rest, is one way to pose a hurdle to invading contagious diseases.

16 posted on 10/20/2010 8:15:21 AM PDT by James C. Bennett
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To: neverdem

*


17 posted on 10/20/2010 1:18:51 PM PDT by bitt ( Charles Krauthammer: "There's desperation, and then there's reptilian desperation, ..")
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To: gusopol3
What’s your guess about the persistence of viral pathogens in an archaeologic site ? Just a few days at most? (I mean from the time of burial, like small pox)

Not being a virologist, I have to wonder. Usually, they are just a genetic core of DNA or RNA covered by a capsid of glycoprotein. They might be able to persist indefinitely. The only thing they have to do is reproduce. That's why they hijack their host's genetic "machinery." They don't need energy to do any cellular housework of their own.

18 posted on 10/20/2010 4:22:52 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

19 posted on 10/20/2010 4:33:55 PM PDT by raybbr (Someone who invades another country is NOT an immigrant - illegal or otherwise.)
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To: LukeL

I think I read that the Jewish practice of cleaning out their grain storage during their religious holidays also helped to reduce the possibility of rats getting into it, then reproducing.


20 posted on 10/20/2010 5:00:08 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: raybbr

What numbers did you use for h and w?


21 posted on 10/20/2010 5:46:26 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: Jimmy Valentine; blam
Gee whiz, did I miss this one?

Barbara Tuchman's seminal work on the social and political effects of the plague, "Through a Glass Darkly", mentioned that as the plague spread North the percentage of deaths declined.

We can flip that around to a scenario where the initial viral attack in the far North was relatively mild with a nothing more than head cold symptoms, and as the virus spread South it MUTATED (like flu) and became more deadly.

The FAR NORTH has more than its fair share of rodents of all kinds to serve as a vector for the fleas and the virus. I have no idea why the FAR NORTH wouldn't be a great home for this particular disease.

Immediately after the arrival of the plague in Norway, the Norse population numbers dropped like a rock, and vast expanses of previously farmed land turned to waste.

In those days "church authorities" (according to many Norwegian sources) were responsible for collecting "rents" and "taxes" on Coastal farmland in Norway. Other taxing authorities dealt with the fishing industry.

In order to repopulate the abandoned farms the "tax" authorities made deals with the Sa'ami who lived further North and up in the hills chasing reindeer. In just a few decades much of the abandoned territories were repopulated with Sa'ami people who were Christianized and recast as valued citizens (provided they learned the Norwegian language.

Still, the "tax" authorities had to continue this practice well into the 1700s.

The Sa'ami were also encouraged to get into the commercial fishing business which was vital to Norway's economy.

Modern Norway counts only 60,000 people as being Sa'ami, but that's a matter of legal definition, not genetics. Given the effect of the Great Plague on Souv'rn Norway, it's more like HALF are of substantially Sa'ami ancestry ~ and now that a marker gene or 2, or 3, or 82 of 'em have been identified, that could readily be demonstrated.

I suspect the Sa'ami themselves were IMMUNE to the black plague virus, and that it was a local thing that comes and goes over time, but strictly among the rodents ~ not the people.

22 posted on 10/20/2010 6:10:58 PM PDT by muawiyah ("GIT OUT THE WAY" The Republicans are coming)
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To: neverdem

I used w=800. If you use just one dimension in your html it maintains the aspect ratio. If you use both you can easily distort the pic.


23 posted on 10/20/2010 6:14:07 PM PDT by raybbr (Someone who invades another country is NOT an immigrant - illegal or otherwise.)
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To: neverdem

Thanks,you know plenty, so it’s likely not an obvious answer.


24 posted on 10/20/2010 6:52:34 PM PDT by gusopol3
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To: Wonder Warthog

thanks;interesting, and a little scary.


25 posted on 10/20/2010 7:00:52 PM PDT by gusopol3
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To: Tainan; Fractal Trader; martin_fierro; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1010RD; 21twelve; ...

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Thanks Tainan and Fractal Trader. They could be wrong, but personally I rodent doubt this new discovery.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
 

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26 posted on 10/20/2010 7:55:05 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: neverdem; SunkenCiv

People often forget the preferred and easy route from the Near East to the North using the Black Sea and the rivers of Russia.

Merchant traffic went both ways, not just from the North to the Black Sea..


27 posted on 10/20/2010 8:37:13 PM PDT by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk only to me.)
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To: neverdem

“Instead, two unknown forms were identified, which are older and differ from the modern pathogens found in Africa, America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union regions”

Yikes - Bioweapons from the past!


28 posted on 10/20/2010 8:55:50 PM PDT by Domestic Church (AMDG...)
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To: neverdem

Chime in OT Laws.

We have used those for the last 32 yrs and have been blessed with
“no infectcion”.

Wash body fluids away down drains for the severly infirmed, bury the dead, and take care to cover/clean the honey pots.

All the above takes most of the time along with hand feeding.

Mother Theresa would understand.

Carry on.


29 posted on 10/20/2010 10:16:48 PM PDT by Global2010
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To: Spktyr; LukeL; SunkenCiv; All

There was a terrible epidemic of antiwitchcraft activity in central Europe, which included killing many women, especially old ones, and cats. I recall reading that Nostradamus encouraged using Vitamin C containing rose hips, which helped. There are 3 phases of the plague which have varying lethality. Bubonic from flea bites, characterized by swollen bloody lymph glands, the least lethal; pneumonic, spread airborne, highly lethal; and septicemic, blood poisoning, totally fatal. Defoes “Journal of the Plague Years” is very informative.

Regarding rats, the primary vector in Europe seems to have been the brown (or black?) rat which is an upper story dweller. The Norwegian rat is a basement/sewer rat. While it may have been the initial carrier from ships, apparently it was the other rats that lived more closely with people that did the most damage. Any information on Jewish practices with regard to rats and housecleaning?


30 posted on 10/20/2010 10:35:35 PM PDT by gleeaikin (question authority)
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To: LukeL
A little know fact, the Jews living in Europe during this time had very low infection rates

The Jews in England had low infection rates because they had all been kicked out in 1290.

31 posted on 10/20/2010 10:41:40 PM PDT by wideminded
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To: Jimmy Valentine
Is there much evidence that the plague of the early sixth century (Justinian's plague) was from the same y pestis as the Black Death?
32 posted on 10/20/2010 11:05:07 PM PDT by Lucius Cornelius Sulla ('“Our own government has become our enemy' - Sheriff Paul Babeu)
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To: Tax-chick; Global2010

I know you are very busy.

I just thought this thread would confirm what your already know.

Peace Out. Chic. /Catholic PNW too Cool

Yes we are Chic. LOL


33 posted on 10/21/2010 12:15:57 AM PDT by Global2010
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To: wideminded

But who/history is to say that their cleansing ways were not picked up by those living amongst them aka shared culture.


34 posted on 10/21/2010 12:20:37 AM PDT by Global2010
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To: gleeaikin

Do not know, but cats are quite effective at eliminating rodent pests from upper stories of buildings. See barn cats and hay lofts. Unlike the Christians of the time, Jews didn’t have problems with keeping cats as pets or even as animate pest control.


35 posted on 10/21/2010 2:06:52 AM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: muawiyah

The far north has this thing called ‘Winter’. Fleas freeze and die, and so do infected and unprotected rats.


36 posted on 10/21/2010 2:08:57 AM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla
The Book says so. The postulate is that the plague was so severe that it killed over 75,000 people in the Byzantine Empire, primarily Constantinople and spread north up the trade routes from there.

This so weakened the Byzantines that subsequent threats (humans) could not be effectively countered.

37 posted on 10/21/2010 2:34:30 AM PDT by Jimmy Valentine (DemocRATS - when they speak, they lie; when they are silent, they are stealing the American Dream)
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To: Jimmy Valentine

The figure I read was that it killed 100 million altogether. Obviously there is a bit of a dispute about the totals.


38 posted on 10/21/2010 3:33:40 AM PDT by Lucius Cornelius Sulla ('“Our own government has become our enemy' - Sheriff Paul Babeu)
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To: Global2010

Thanks - interesting topic. Hope you and KV are well! Anoreth says it’s too cool in Washington, too!


39 posted on 10/21/2010 4:16:52 AM PDT by Tax-chick (I love the smell of napalm in November. Cue the Wagner music ...)
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To: Spktyr
Rats, voles, moles, lemings, etc. dig dens and live out the winter there. So do the fleas.

It's not like the fleas MIGRATE up from the Bahamas or something every Spring.

Does the name "NORWAY RAT" mean anything to you?

40 posted on 10/21/2010 4:51:35 AM PDT by muawiyah ("GIT OUT THE WAY" The Republicans are coming)
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To: Jimmy Valentine

Correcting the earlier error ~ BLACK PLAGUE BACTERIA (not virus).


41 posted on 10/21/2010 4:55:12 AM PDT by muawiyah ("GIT OUT THE WAY" The Republicans are coming)
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To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Regarding the counting of plague victims ~ all of those counts are pretty much estimates made up by locals in later centuries who knew where they kept the mass graves (if any).

In areas where people just died in large numbers and no one was left to bury them, the numbers aren't known.

Some estimates rely on apparent economic activity "before" and "after".

The Chinese estimates are huge, and equally unreliable. The fact that a relatively small group ~ the Mongols ~ were able to subsequently conquer China and India ~ then, and now, the world's most populous nations ~ should give all of us some idea of who died and who didn't.

42 posted on 10/21/2010 5:03:39 AM PDT by muawiyah ("GIT OUT THE WAY" The Republicans are coming)
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To: muawiyah
Could it be that certain blood types are more or less resistant to the plague.

If blood type O was predominant in the pre-plague era and blood type A was predominant after, could we say that A was selected for via the plague.

Statistically, O is stronger against heart disease and cancer, but weak for anything that came from Pandora's Box. A's die like flies even today, and at younger ages, from cancer and heart disease.

Fox news last night had a mention of the French, who despite their diet had a lot of longevity. France should have been wiped out by plague, but there were pockets that refused outsiders entry. None died. They would still be heavily O’s.

43 posted on 10/21/2010 5:11:29 AM PDT by Battle Axe (Repent, for the coming of the Lord is nigh.)
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To: Battle Axe
Type A+ does dominate Northern and Western Europe doesn't it ~ but the further North you go the longer the expected lifespan with Scanderhoovian wimmin nearly equaling Japanese wimmin!

It's more like a series of diseases, some viral in nature and others bacterial, require some point of attachment on cell surfaces that simply isn't there in some people. This theory has been studied to some degree and the diseases identified. There are people immune to both black plague and cholera, and they appear to be immune to several other quite deadly but common infectious diseases.

Alas, none of the studies have been able to pin down the cause of this immunity (which includes an immunity to AIDs).

44 posted on 10/21/2010 5:19:19 AM PDT by muawiyah ("GIT OUT THE WAY" The Republicans are coming)
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To: Jimmy Valentine

Justinian’s Plague was in the 6th century, not the same plague as the black death of the 14th and 15th century.


45 posted on 10/21/2010 5:20:47 AM PDT by wolfman23601
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To: muawiyah

What bugs me is that everybody knows that the Roman Empire took censuses to (among other things) set taxes, and were careful to preserve these records. If we could recover them we would be able to easily figure the numbers for the sixth century plague, since the Byzantine Empire was at its greatest extent during the plague.


46 posted on 10/21/2010 5:57:40 AM PDT by Lucius Cornelius Sulla ('“Our own government has become our enemy' - Sheriff Paul Babeu)
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To: gleeaikin

:’) Never hire a rat to clean the house. ;’)

In Europe the Jews were widely blamed for the Black Death (well poisoning, spells, the usual bag of malarkey) and were driven out, murdered, and scrolls and temples were incinerated.


47 posted on 10/21/2010 12:21:12 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: SunkenCiv

The lighter side of the Black Death . . . .

48 posted on 10/21/2010 12:44:42 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: Spktyr

that “cat” item is quoted all the time, but I’ve never seen a scientific study on it.

The European “witch craze” was about 200 years after the black plague, and of course the black plague was world wide, not just in Europe.


49 posted on 10/22/2010 1:14:09 AM PDT by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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To: wolfman23601

You are correct. I think this was the first instance of Plague infestation and it spread from there.


50 posted on 10/22/2010 4:16:59 AM PDT by Jimmy Valentine (DemocRATS - when they speak, they lie; when they are silent, they are stealing the American Dream)
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