Category Archives: mass graves

A yet unknown reservoir of yersinia pestis in Europe

A new study provides data on long-term presence of yersinia pestis from 14th c. onwards by using analysis of ancient DNA (aDNA). The study is based on two different sites in Germany, spanning a time period of more than 300 years. One of them is the 14th c. mass grave at the St. Leonhard church in Manching-Pichl, which is still an extraordinary site in Germany. Of 30 tested skeletons 8 were positive for Yersinia pestis-specific nucleic acid. As there are some significant similarities between the y.p. evidence with other European findings, the authors conclude, that “beside the assumed continuous reintroduction of Y. pestis from central Asia in multiple waves during the second pandemic, long-term persistence of Y. pestis in Europe in a yet unknown reservoir host has also to be considered.”

In order to understand the 14th c. crisis it will be interesting to see whether their model in which Yersinia pestis “was introduced to Europe from Asia in several waves combined with a long-time persistence of the pathogen in not yet identified reservoirs” is also valid for the time between the 6th and the 14th c. as this has some consequences in understanding possible interaction between landscape changes, extreme weather and the Black Death.

 

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist researcher at Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz - lecturer at Tübingen university

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Looters at a mass burial in France

According to recent press releases we face an increasing number of mass burials all over Europe (recently we had press releases on Ellwangen, Barcelona and London). Currentky there are rescue excavations at Toulouse in France. Around 150 corpses have been found, by now contributed to an outbreak of the plague in 1378.

Several of the skulls have been stolen from the excavation. Looting of archaeological sites is an increasing problem not only in the Near East. In Toulouse the looting of skulls may seriously affect the scientific value of the anthropological data for the analysis of demography, nutrition and the effects of the Black Death.

 

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist researcher at Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz - lecturer at Tübingen university

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