BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Few things were as devastating for the planet’s human population as the plague. The Black Death, more specifically, killed somewhere between 30% to 50% of Europe’s population in just 5 years, and subsequent plagues continued to rampage the continent for centuries. In their attempt at reconstructing a timeline for the fatal disease, a team of scientists get close to the Black Death’s inception.
One of the most interesting things about the disease that could have easily wiped out the entirety of Europe is that… well, that it didn’t.
The Black Death managed to wipe out somewhere between 30% and 50% of the continent’s population in only 5 years, so if a few more things went wrong, like somebody getting on the wrong ship, it could have easily resulted in a world-wide cataclysm.
The fact that the disease just went away for years and even decades, only to resurface later, all throughout three or four centuries, was also quite odd about such a deadly illness.
In their attempt to find out the origin of the Black Death, as well as the answers to some these questions, a team of international scientists led by a team from the Max Planck Institute almost literally dived into the only remnants of the Black Death in Europe – the common plague pits.
Climbing down into plague pits from the last great plague outbreak on the continent – the Great Plague of Marseille, which lasted for two years and ended in 1722 – the team recovered bits of DNA from the teeth of some of the plague victims thrown in the common pits and buried under hot lye.
As it turns out, the 18th century plague in Europe, just like the one that pretty much could have killed the entire continent, is extinct.
The plagues that kept returning over the centuries were direct descendants of the Black Death, and all of them are now not only fully extinct, but also completely different from any types of plague still found today.
Because of the big hub of trade that was Marseille in the time of plague, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine the exact origin of the Black Death epidemic.
However, the data gathered by the researchers did show definitive fact that the disease originated somewhere in Europe, although not exactly where.
The team emphasizes how chilling it is that the source of the deadly illness is still unidentified, and might possibly still carry some form of the long extinct pathogen.
Further tests, however, will hopefully give us more information about the Black Death and its origins.
Image source: Wikimedia