The bubonic plague outbreak devastated the world from 1346 to 1353 and is the deadliest pandemic in human history, killing around 200 million people
Image: Lyazzat Musralina/ SWNS)
New research suggests that the Black Death began in 1338 in what is now Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia.
The bubonic plague outbreak ravaged the world from 1346 to 1353 and is the deadliest pandemic in human history, causing the deaths of up to 200 million people.
Bubonic plague is caused by the flea-borne bacterium Yersinia pestis, but can also take a secondary form where it is spread from person to person via airborne droplets.
In 1347 it first entered the Mediterranean via ships transporting goods from the areas of the Golden Horde in the Black Sea.
The deadly disease then spread across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, claiming up to 60 percent of the population in a large-scale outbreak known as the Black Death.
AS Leybin, August 1886/ SWNS)
The first wave continued to spread into a 500-year-long pandemic known as the Second Plague Pandemic, which lasted into the early 19th century.
The origins of the Second Plague Pandemic have been the subject of debate. One of the most popular theories has its source in East Asia, specifically China.
However, the only archaeological finds available so far come from Central Asia near Lake Issyk-Kul in present-day Kyrgyzstan.
Findings show that an epidemic in 1338 and 1339 devastated a local trading community.
Excavations that took place almost 140 years ago have turned up tombstones that suggest people died of an unknown epidemic or “plague” in those years.
Ever since they were first discovered, the tombstones, inscribed in Syriac, have been a cornerstone of controversy among scholars as to their significance to the Black Death in Europe.
AS Leybin, August 1886 / SWNS)
For the study, an international team of researchers analyzed ancient DNA from human remains, as well as historical and archaeological items from two sites where “plague” inscriptions were found.
The team’s initial results were very encouraging, as DNA from the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis was identified on the gravestones of people dated 1338.
The study’s lead author, Doctor Phil Slavin, Associate Professor of History at the University of Stirling in Scotland, said: “We have finally been able to show that the epidemic mentioned on the tombstones was in fact caused by the plague.”
Researchers have previously linked the initiation of the Black Death to a massive diversification of plague strains, a so-called “big bang” of plague diversity.
However, the exact date of this event could not be accurately estimated, and it was believed to have occurred sometime between the 10th and 14th centuries.
The research team has now pieced together a complete ancient plague genome from Kyrgyzstan sites and investigated how they might be linked to the “Big Bang” event.
The lead author Dr. Maria Spyrou from the University of Tübingen, Germany, said: “We found that the ancient tribes from Kyrgyzstan are positioned right at the nexus of this massive diversification event.
“In other words, we have found the origin tribe of the Black Death and even know its exact date.”
She explained that the plague is not a human disease; The bacterium survives in wild rodent populations around the world, in so-called plague reservoirs.
The ancient Central Asian tribe that caused the epidemic around Lake Issyk-Kul in 1338-1339 must have come from such a reservoir, the researchers say.
Co-senior author Prof Johannes Krause said: “We found that modern strains most closely related to the ancient strain are now found in plague reservoirs around the Tian Shan Mountains, very close to where where the ancient trunk was found.”
Prof. Krause, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, added: “This indicates an origin of the Black Death’s ancestor in Central Asia.”
The results were published in the journal Nature.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/mystery-black-death-began-solved-27244349 The mystery of where the Black Death began has been solved - and it took 10 years to reach the UK