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What Caused the Black Death? A Clue From the Dead

By: Amy Li

The Infamous Black Death happened nearly 700 years ago, and the result is widely known — nearly 60 percent of Europe’s population was wiped out. However, there wasn’t a sure origin to the Plague, until recently, when teeth from unearthed bodies gave a new clue.

According to the article, “Where Did the Black Death begin? DNA Detectives Find a Key Clue”, the researchers, after a study in London, have come up with a “DNA family tree” for the Y. pestis, in which the ancestral strain seemed to have “exploded into four branches of Y. pestis strains whose descendants are found today in rodents.” This event was later referred to as the “Big Bang.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Slavin, who analyzed Plague Victims in Kyrgyzstan, became aware of two Christian cemeteries in the area. There were hundreds of gravestones that were clearly labeled with dates. Statistics showed that in the year 1338, the death rates of that region increased rapidly, due to “Pestilence”– and 1338 was around the time the plague had begun – 7-8 years before the Black Death struck. Further analysis from the researchers confirmed that all three individuals who died of “pestilence” had plague DNA in their teeth. The DNA seemed to be of the ancestral strain from when the Big Bang happened.

Some people also believe that the Mongols introduced the bacteria to Europe. However, Dr. Monica Green, along with other historians, argued that the Big Bang should have happened right at the time the “Big Bang” happened. The article, however, had mentioned that that wouldn’t be the case, since then the Mongols would have spread a branch of the DNA family tree, not the ancestral strain.

In the end, historians involved in this research are firm to believe that the Plague started in Kyrgyzstan. However, they said, the evidence was not enough to nail it down. An important clue, however, has been discovered. They will continue in their search for the plague’s true origins.

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