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Ancient Plague Genome Reconstructed from 6th Century Victim's Teeth

Ancient Plague Genome Reconstructed from 6th Century Victim's Teeth

 Hand necrosis caused by plague (Wikipedia)

By    |   Sunday, 04 September 2016 10:54 AM

Evidence of the Justinianic plague has been discovered from sixth century skeletal remains in an area of southern Germany, showing the epidemic stretched further than written history has suggested, according to a Molecular Biology & Evolution report published this week.

A women’s teeth from the Bavarian cemetery of Altenerding near Aschheim, Germany, estimated to have been buried around 530-570 AD, revealed genetic evidence of the genome of Yersinia pestis, which is the bacterium that caused the plague.

"According to historical sources, the Justinianic plague struck Europe at least three times during this time period," the report stated. "The first known wave raged across the Mediterranean world from 541 to 543 AD; further big waves occurred from 558 to 590.

"The incomplete written records do not mention plague in this region of Germany. Since it is unclear whether the second big wave reached western Europe, these victims most likely died in the first or third wave of the plague. In any case, the Atlenerding genome dates to the first decades of the 200-year long pandemic.

"How the pathogen reached southern Germany is at present unknown: further evidence will be needed to clarify whether it traveled across the Alps from the Mediterranean as suggested for the Black Death or from France and western Germany. Alternatively, it could have traveled up the Danube from the east."

Teeth from 20 skeletons were tested and one woman had enough conclusive evidence of the Yersinia pestis bacterium, per the report. The burial date was estimated from types of grave goods with the remains.

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Evidence of the Justinianic plague has been discovered from sixth century skeletal remains in an area of southern Germany, showing the epidemic stretched further than written history has suggested, according to a Molecular Biology Evolution report published this week.A...
plague, found, teeth, southern germany
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2016-54-04
Sunday, 04 September 2016 10:54 AM
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