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Researchers to Have Found Where the Black Death Began

Updated: Jun 26



By: Efran ZHao


Just this week, researchers believe that they found the origins of the Black Death – one of

the deadliest plagues in human history – near Issyk-Kul, a lake in Kyrgyzstan, by using DNA

samples from human teeth. The researchers found plague DNA in the teeth of three deceased

women from a cemetery near Issyk-Kul.

The Black Death killed roughly 60% of the population of Eurasia. The reason why it was

known and called the “Black Death” was because black spots would appear on victim’s bodies while

causing very painful, swollen lymph nodes. But no one knew for sure where and how it came to be.

Philip Slavin, an associate professor at the University of Sterling in Scotland was analyzing

plague victims in Kyrgyzstan, when he realized that he could use them to try to solve the Black

Death problem. So, he started searching for noticeable graves.

He found to his surprise discovered that the graves in the cemeteries were all dated. Many of

the tombs stated that the people had died of “pestilence,”, and it was noticed that the years of 1338-

1339 had a significant increase in death rate. After doing some tests, they found three bodies in

which there were plague DNA.

The search for the plague’s origin “is like a detective story,” said Dr. Fissell, who was not

involved in the study. “Now they have really good evidence of the scene of the crime.”

Using this evidence, the scientist concluded that the plague was present in the humans and

during the years of 1338-1339 in Kyrgyzstan, a whole eight years before it wiped out 30 to 50

percent of the population of Europe.

Many scientists speculated that the original bacterium, Y. pestis, had split off into four

different strains, one of which was the Black Death. They referred to this idea as the Big Bang. If

that thought were to be is correct, then the “mother” strain of the Y. pestis would have begun in

Kyrgyzstan, and the plague would have spread through trade routes, as opposed to the previous

suggestions that it began from military actions.

Furthermore, scientists used the “evidence” to find out the specific type of rodent that first

spread the plague to humans, marmots.

But, as Dr. Monica H. Green puts it, “Stayed tuned”, as new evidence might emerge.



Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/15/health/black-death-plague.html

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/black-death-ancient-dna180980275/#:~:text=After%20analyzing%20DNA%20traces%20found,to%20Europe%20via%20t

rade%20routes.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2022/06/16/black-death-kyrgyzstan-central-asia/

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