The following session report by Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), Sacha Kacki (Université de Bordeaux, France), Marcel Keller (MPI-SHH Jena, Germany) and Christina Lee (University of Nottingham, UK) will be published in The European Archaeologist. With kind permission of the EAA.
Plague, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, occurred in at least three major historical pandemics: the Justinianic Plague (6th to 8th century), the Black Death (1348-1352, with further epidemic outbreaks until the 18th century), and the Modern or Hong Kong Plague (19th to 20th century). However, it appears that the disease may be much older: DNA from Bronze Age human skeleton has recently shown that plague first emerged at least as early as 3000 BC. As any disease, plague has both a biological as well as a social dimension. Different disciplines can therefore explicate different aspects of plague which can lead to a better understanding of the disease and its medical and social implications.
The session was held on 2nd September 2016 as part of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the EAA with the aim of bringing together researchers from different disciplines who work on plague. It addressed a series of research questions, such as:
- Which disciplines can contribute to the research on plague?
- What are their methodological possibilities and the limitations of their methodologies?
- How can different disciplines work together in order to gain a more realistic and detailed picture of plague in different periods and regions?
- How did different societies react to plague? In which way may we prove or disprove evidence for such reactions – and which disciplines may contribute to the debate?
- What where the common aspects, and what the differences of the various plague outbreaks? Are there any epidemiological characteristics that are essential and/or unique to plague?
- What are possible implications of the pandemic spread and endemic occurrence of plague through the ages for the interpretation of historical and cultural phenomena?