Category Archives: Disciplines

Introduction – Gunnar Neumann

I am a PhD student at the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, soon moving to the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

My research focus are ancient pathogens in western Eurasia and their evolutionary history. Among others, I work on Yersinia pestis from the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age until late medieval times. 

 

Gunnar Neumann

PhD student at the Department of Archaeogenetics of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena

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Themed Issue and Webinar on “Disease, Death, and Therapy” – Speculum

Speculum published a whole issue on the topic of “Disease, Death and Therapy” with several articles related directly to plague. Moreover, on 14 Jan 2021, Speculum hosted a webinar with the authors; the recording will soon be publicly available.

Gayk, S. Apocalyptic Ecologies: Eschatology, the Ethics of Care, and the Fifteen Signs of the Doom in Early England. Speculum 96, 1–37 (2021) doi:10.1086/711658

Abstract: Exploring how late medieval texts imagined the promised destruction of the physical world, this essay offers an ecocritical reading of a single apocalyptic motif: the Fifteen Signs of the Doom. This once popular catalogue of ecological and cosmological portents of the Apocalypse encouraged environmental watchfulness, moved human experience from the center to the margins, and explored the humbling inscrutability of natural disaster. Surveying some of the Middle English sermons and lyrics that include this motif, this article considers how the practice of imagining the coming apocalypse by cataloguing wonders, natural disasters, and strange phenomena in the material world not only reminded human beings of their participation in a larger ecology but also invited them to reflect upon their responsibilities to and sympathies with the larger world.

McCormick, M. Gregory of Tours on Sixth-Century Plague and Other Epidemics. Speculum 96, 38–96 (2021) doi:10.1086/711721

Abstract: Analyzes philologically and historically all testimony in the works of Gregory of Tours about various epidemics that struck Gaul, Iberia, and Italy in the sixth century; in particular, those of the most serious disease, “inguinal epidemic,” that is, bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis), as well as an illness that may have been smallpox (Variola major). Establishes that Gregory’s testimony, inspired by his personal and pastoral-theological concerns, is reliable and informative; delineates the motivations and sources for reporting the recurring epidemics of plague as they emerge from his writings; shows that Gregory’s information is robust but geographically constrained: of the twenty-two places and regions where he knows unambiguously about plague, only four are further than 400 km from his familial Clermont (Fig. 1). Gregory’s twenty-two mentions of plague also refer to six epidemics between c. 543–47 and c. 591–94, of which he treats four in greater detail; his silences are confirmed to be significant only rarely. Two epidemics are newly dated to springtime, and the initial outbreak is shown as likely to have reached Gaul from a western port. Contagion mirrors communications infrastructures and affected the countryside as well as towns, which populations tended to flee. Symptoms, epidemiology, and heavy mortality align with the ancient DNA proof that the pathogen was Yersinia pestis; pneumonic plague is suggested in two cases. Gregory’s historical testimony is confirmed by and integrated into the new biomolecular archaeological discoveries of early medieval plague victims in western Europe.

Barker, H. Laying the Corpses to Rest: Grain, Embargoes, and Yersinia pestis in the Black Sea, 1346–48. Speculum 96, 97–126 (2021) doi:10.1086/711596

Abstract: When, how, and why did the Black Death reach Europe? Historians have relied on Gabriele de’ Mussi’s account of Tatars catapulting plague-infested bodies into the besieged city of Caffa on the Crimean Peninsula. Yet Mussi spent the 1340s in Piacenza; he had no direct knowledge of events in Caffa. Sources by people present in the Black Sea during the Second Pandemic, including Genoese colonial administrators, Venetian diplomats, Byzantine chroniclers, and Mamluk merchants, offer a different perspective. They show that the Venetian community at Tana played an important role in plague transmission; that it took over a year (from spring 1346 to autumn 1347) for plague to cross the Black Sea to Constantinople; that people crossed the Black Sea in 1346 but commodities did not because of a series of trade embargoes; that grain was one of the most important Black Sea commodities in both volume and strategic value; and therefore that the embargoes of 1346 delayed plague transmission by temporarily halting the movement of grain with its accompanying rats, fleas, and bacteria. When Venice, Genoa, and the Golden Horde made peace and lifted their embargoes in 1347, both the grain trade and the spread of plague resumed.

Curtis, D. R. From One Mortality Regime to Another? Mortality Crises in Late Medieval Haarlem, Holland, in Perspective. Speculum 96, 127–155 (2021) doi:10.1086/711641

Abstract: This article employs a large database of 10,360 deaths taken from registrations of graves dug and church bells tolled at Haarlem between the years 1412 and 1547—one of the largest samples and longest series of mortality evidence ever produced for medieval Holland—and systematically compares findings with a seventeenth-century burial register for the same city. It concludes that we should put aside any lingering notion that late medieval Holland was very lightly affected by epidemic diseases: in fact, in Haarlem, these mortality crises were more severe than those seen in the seventeenth century. The data also reveal not one overarching “medieval mortality regime” but distinct changes between fewer but more severe spikes in the first half of the fifteenth century, and higher frequency of smaller spikes later on—especially in the period 1480–1530—with the number of mortality crises damping down after 1530. These mortality crises tended to produce more adult female victims than male, supporting recent findings from elsewhere in the late medieval Low Countries.

Pieragostini, R. The Healing Power of Music? Documentary Evidence from Late-Fourteenth-Century Bologna. Speculum 96, 156–176 (2021) doi:10.1086/711571

Abstract: The idea of the healing power of music—rooted in Platonic and Aristotelian psychologies and Galenic humoral theory—has a long-standing tradition in European intellectual thought and occurs in several texts of the medieval and early modern periods. In contrast to the abundance of references in theoretical discussions, however, historians today face the scarcity of evidence documenting specific, actual uses of music as therapy. Among such rare evidence are two documents emanating from the chancery of late-fourteenth-century Bologna, which form the focus of this article. The documents, which concern a musician and an itinerant healer, provide new insights into musical practices directed in particular to the cure of psychic sufferings. The documents make clear that the secular authorities of Bologna considered the agency of these two practitioners and their medical and musical skills to be crucial for maintaining or restoring individual and collective health. The evidence discussed here suggests that the use of music toward curative ends must have been more widespread than hitherto acknowledged. It also highlights the powerful association between notions of musical healing and ideas of individual and civic well-being that underlay the Bologna officials’ idea of the state.

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

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More Bronze Age Plague from Lake Baikal

Kılınç, G. M. et al. Human population dynamics and Yersinia pestis in ancient northeast Asia. Science Advances 7, eabc4587 (2021) doi:10.1126/sciadv.abc4587

Abstract:

We present genome-wide data from 40 individuals dating to c.16,900 to 550 years ago in northeast Asia. We describe hitherto unknown gene flow and admixture events in the region, revealing a complex population history. While populations east of Lake Baikal remained relatively stable from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age, those from Yakutia and west of Lake Baikal witnessed major population transformations, from the Late Upper Paleolithic to the Neolithic, and during the Bronze Age, respectively. We further locate the Asian ancestors of Paleo-Inuits, using direct genetic evidence. Last, we report the most northeastern ancient occurrence of the plague-related bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Our findings indicate the highly connected and dynamic nature of northeast Asia populations throughout the Holocene.

Comment:

After Yu et al. 2020, this is the second Bronze Age plague genome from Lake Baikal. Since this paper was probably submitted before the publication of Yu et al. 2020, this is not discussed here, and the claim that they report the most northeastern Y. pestis genome does not hold true. Unfortunately, the coverage of their genome is extremely low, so it could not be phylogenetically assessed.

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

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Castles and Fortresses in Times of Pestilence

A conference digitally held on 17 December 2020 by the Marburger Arbeitskreis für Europäische Burgenforschung and Aarhus University looking into the role of castles in times of pestilence can be found on youtube:

There are five papers:

  1. Christian Ottersbach: Introduction
  2. Rainer Atzbach: The Black Death in Denmark and in front of Kiel Castle
  3. Michael Nobel Hviid: The Royal Castle as a catalyst for dissemination
  4. Lea Reiff: War and Pestilence. (Co-)relations between plague and warfare in literature and film, past and present
  5. Dominik Gerd Sieber: Walls, Ditches and Gates contra Pestilence
. Castles in Upper Swabia during Times of  Pestilence in 16th Century

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist

professor in medieval and postmedieval archaeology at Bamberg university

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introduction – Hannah Barker

I am an assistant professor of medieval history at Arizona State University with an interest in Black Sea – Mediterranean connections in the 14th century. I have an article coming out in Speculum in January about the timing and transmission process for plague from the northern coast of the Black Sea (Caffa and Tana) to Italy in 1347 via Genoese and Venetian grain shipment networks. https://www.medievalacademy.org/page/Forthcoming

At the moment I am focusing on a non-plague-related project, but I am also interested in the early phases of the Second Pandemic in the Golden Horde/Caucasus region as well as the process of plague transmission from the Black Sea to Mamluk Alexandria in 1347.

 

Second Pandemic Plague Genomes of the 18th Century

Guellil, M. et al. A genomic and historical synthesis of plague in 18th century Eurasia. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. (2020) doi:10.1073/pnas.2009677117

Abstract:

Plague continued to afflict Europe for more than five centuries after the Black Death. Yet, by the 17th century, the dynamics of plague had changed, leading to its slow decline in Western Europe over the subsequent 200 y, a period for which only one genome was previously available. Using a multidisciplinary approach, combining genomic and historical data, we assembled Y. pestisg enomes from nine individuals covering four Eurasian sites and placed them into an historical context within the established phylogeny. CHE1 (Chechnya, Russia,18th century) is now the latest Second Plague Pandemic genome and the first non-European sample in the post-Black Death lineage. Its placement in the phylogeny and our synthesis point toward the existence of an extra-European reservoir feeding plague into Western Europe in multiple waves. By considering socioeconomic, ecological, and climatic factors we highlight the importance of a noneurocentric approach for the discussion on Second Plague Pandemic dynamics in Europe.

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

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Acceleration of plague outbreaks in London by historical sources

D. J. D. Earn/J. Ma/H. Poinar u. a., Acceleration of plague outbreaks in the second pandemic. Proc .Nat. Acad. Science USA (PNAS) 2020. – doi:10.1073/pnas.2004904117

 

Abstract

Historical records reveal the temporal patterns of a sequence of plague epidemics in London, United Kingdom, from the 14th to 17th centuries. Analysis of these records shows that later epidemics spread significantly faster (“accelerated”). Between the Black Death of 1348 and the later epidemics that culminated with the Great Plague of 1665, we estimate that the epidemic growth rate increased fourfold. Currently available data do not provide enough information to infer the mode of plague transmission in any given epidemic; nevertheless, order-of-magnitude estimates of epidemic parameters suggest that the observed slow growth rates in the 14th century are inconsistent with direct (pneumonic) transmission. We discuss the potential roles of demographic and ecological factors, such as climate change or human or rat population density, in driving the observed acceleration.

 

Comment

The database of this article comes from historical records – the London Bills of Mortality, Parish registers, and wills and testaments. The last ones are the only reliable source for the 14th c. which allows a statistical approach. It seems remarkable to me, that no historian was a member of the team of authors, but the data used come  from the commercial company ancestry Corporate. Data series as the ones used in the PNAS articles are extremely significant, but digital publications of this kind of data are still insufficient.

 

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist

professor in medieval and postmedieval archaeology at Bamberg university

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Second Pandemic Plague Genomes from Poland and Russia

Morozova, I. et al. New ancient Eastern European Yersinia pestis genomes illuminate the dispersal of plague in Europe. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B 375:20190569 (2020) doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0569

Abstract:

Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, has been prevalent among humans for at least 5000 years, being accountable for several devastating epidemics in history, including the Black Death. Analyses of the genetic diversity of ancient strains of Y. pestis have shed light on the mechanisms of evolution and the spread of plague in Europe. However, many questions regarding the origins of the pathogen and its long persistence in Europe are still unresolved, especially during the late medieval time period. To address this, we present four newly assembled Y. pestis genomes from Eastern Europe(Poland and Southern Russia), dating from the fifteenth to eighteenth century AD. The analysis of polymorphisms in these genomes and their phylogenetic relationships with other ancient and modern Y. pestis strains may suggest several independent introductions of plague into Eastern Europe or its persistence in different reservoirs. Furthermore, with the reconstruction of a partial Y. pestis genome from rat skeletal remains found in a Polish ossuary, we were able to identify a potential animal reservoir in late medieval Europe. Overall, our results add new information concerning Y. pestis transmission and its evolutionary history in Eastern Europe.

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

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Second Pandemic Plague Genomes From Riga

Susat, J. et al. Yersinia pestis strains from Latvia show depletion of the pla virulence gene at the end of the second plague pandemic. Scientific Reports 10:14628 (2020), doi:10.1038/s41598-020-71530-9

Abstract:

Ancient genomic studies have identified Yersinia pestis (Y. pestis) as the causative agent of the second plague pandemic (fourteenth–eighteenth century) that started with the Black Death (1,347–1,353). Most of the Y. pestis strains investigated from this pandemic have been isolated from western Europe, and not much is known about the diversity and microevolution of this bacterium in eastern European countries. In this study, we investigated human remains excavated from two cemeteries in Riga (Latvia). Historical evidence suggests that the burials were a consequence of plague outbreaks during the seventeenth century. DNA was extracted from teeth of 16 individuals and subjected to shotgun sequencing. Analysis of the metagenomic data revealed the presence of Y. pestis sequences in four remains, confirming that the buried individuals were victims of plague. In two samples, Y. pestis DNA coverage was sufficient for genome reconstruction. Subsequent phylogenetic analysis showed that the Riga strains fell within the diversity of the already known post‑Black Death genomes. Interestingly, the two Latvian isolates did not cluster together. Moreover, we detected a drop in coverage of the pPCP1 plasmid region containing the pla gene. Further analysis indicated the presence of two pPCP1 plasmids, one with and one without the pla gene region, and only one bacterial chromosome, indicating that the same bacterium carried two distinct pPCP1 plasmids. In addition, we found the same pattern in the majority of previously published post‑Black Death strains, but not in the Black Death strains. The pla gene is an important virulence factor for the infection of and transmission in humans. thus, the spread of pla‑depleted strains may, among other causes, have contributed to the disappearance of the second plague pandemic in eighteenth century Europe.

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

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Tropical Diseases in late medieval Northern Europe


K. Giffin/A. K. Lankapalli/S. Sabin u. a., A treponemal genome from an historic plague victim supports a recent emergence of yaws and its presence in 15th century Europe. Scientific Reports 10, 1, 2020, e36666.
doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-66012-x

 

The “application of a non-targeted molecular screening tool for the parallel detection of pathogens in historical plague victims from post-medieval Lithuania” enabled a Jena based research team to show ” the presence of more than one active disease in one individual. In addition to Yersinia pestis, we detected and genomically characterized a septic infection of Treponema pallidum pertenue, a subtype of the treponemal disease family recognised as the cause of the tropical disease yaws. Our finding in northern Europe of a disease that is currently restricted to equatorial regions is interpreted within an historical framework of intercontinental trade and potential disease movements. Through this we offer an alternative hypothesis for the history and evolution of the treponemal diseases, and posit that yaws be considered an important contributor to the sudden epidemic of late 15th century Europe that is widely ascribed to syphilis. “

For a German media report see:

 

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist professor in medieval and postmedieval archaeology at Bamberg university

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Bronze Age plague from Lake Baikal

Along with the publication of 19 ancient human genomes from Paleolithic to Bronze Age Lake Baikal, Yu et al. published two Y. pestis genomes. Remarkably, the two individuals carrying plague show no Yamnaya-related ancestry, in contrast to all previously identified individuals infected with this LNBA plague branch. Another suprising result is that the closest Y. pestis strain in the phylogeny published so far was found in Estonia (Kunila2).

Yu, H. et al. Paleolithic to Bronze Age Siberians Reveal Connections with First Americans and across Eurasia. Cell [in press] (2020) doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.037

Summary:

Modern humans have inhabited the Lake Baikal region since the Upper Paleolithic, though the precise history of its peoples over this long time span is still largely unknown. Here, we report genome-wide data from 19 Upper Paleolithic to Early Bronze Age individuals from this Siberian region. An Upper Paleolithic genome shows a direct link with the First Americans by sharing the admixed ancestry that gave rise to all non-Arctic Native Americans. We also demonstrate the formation of Early Neolithic and Bronze Age Baikal populations as the result of prolonged admixture throughout the eighth to sixth millennium BP. Moreover, we detect genetic interactions with western Eurasian steppe populations and reconstruct Yersinia pestis genomes from two Early Bronze Age individuals without western Eurasian ancestry. Overall, our study demonstrates the most deeply divergent connection between Upper Paleolithic Siberians and the First Americans and reveals human and pathogen mobility across Eurasia during the Bronze Age.

 

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

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The Microbiology of early Globalisation

Blog Entry based on an updated extract from my book “Jenseits von Rom und Karl dem Großen” (Vienna 2018):

preiserkapeller

Byzantinist/medievalist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences with a tendency to experiment with concepts and methodologies from global/environmental history, complexity studies, network analysis.

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Rezension: Die Archäozoologie der Pest

Ptolemaios Dimitrios Paxinos
Die Archäozoologie der Pest. 
Die Auswirkungen des Schwarzen Todes (1347-1350) auf Tierhaltung und Viehnutzung im Gebiet des heutigen Deutschland
Documenta Archaeobiologiae 12
Rahden: Leidorf 2017.

Hardcover, 318 S., 101 Abbildungen, 81 Tabellen.
ISBN 978-3-89646-628-0

Rezension im Original in:

Archäologische Informationen 42, 2019, im Early View, online publiziert 12. Jan. 2019 im Early View als PDF unter CC BY 4.0

Die Archäobiologie hat in den vergangenen Jahren wichtige neue Beiträge zur Geschichte der Pest geliefert. Genetische Studien haben das Bakterium Yersinia pestis als Erreger des Schwarzen Todes im 14. Jahrhundert bestätigt, dabei aber auch gezeigt, dass es kurz vor dem beprobten Massengrab von London-Smithfield zu einer Mutation des Erregers gekommen ist (Bos u. a., 2011; Bos u.a., 2012). Damit stellt sich die Frage nach den Voraussetzungen der Epidemie und speziell nach dem Einfluss der Kulturlandschaft. Diese war nach dem sog. Landesausbau und den regional verschiedenen Prozessen der Dorfgenese in den vorausgehenden Generationen unter den Bedingungen der beginnenden Kleinen Eiszeit im 14. Jahrhundert starkem ökologischem Stress ausgesetzt. Langfristige Veränderungen ihrer Biotope, aber auch kurzfristige Extremwetter wie die sog. Magdalenenflut kurz vor der Ernte 1342 haben sicher auch die Nager als Reservoir und Überträger von Yersinia pestis – die ja eigentlich eine Nagerkrankheit ist – betroffen.

Das Thema der Dissertation von Ptolemaios Dimitrios Paxinos sind aber weder die archäogenetischen Nachweise von Yersinia pestis noch die Voraussetzungen oder Auswirkungen des Schwarzen Tods selbst. Ziel ist es vielmehr, mit den Methoden „konventioneller“ zooarchäologischer Forschung zur Pest herauszufinden, wie die Menschen mit der viel umfassenderen Krise umgegangen sind. Welche mittel- und langfristigen Veränderungen ergaben sich daraus für Viehwirtschaft und Ernährung? Ob man die Entwicklung des 14. Jahrhunderts tatsächlich als „Krise“ begreifen möchte oder nicht (Schreg, 2011), spielt hier eine untergeordnete Rolle.

Paxinos gliedert seine Arbeit in vier Teile. Teil 1 umfasst die Einführung in das Thema, die Darstellung der Quellenlage und der angewandten Methoden (S. 15-46). Teil 2 (S. 47-78) präsentiert die regionale Skalenebene, für die die Untersuchungen an den Tierknochen zweier konkreter Fundplätze vorgestellt werden. Das sind zum einen der Kölner Dom und zum anderen der Fischmarkt in Konstanz, wobei Paxinos erstere auf Grundlage eigener Bestimmungen, letztere auf Basis der Publikation von Priloff (2000) sowie der zur Verfügung gestellten Primärdaten analysiert.

Teil 3 (S. 79-118) betrifft die überregionale Ebene und vergleicht dazu die Tierknochenfunde von 173 Fundplätzen. Der abschließende Teil 4 (S. 119-138) liefert die Diskussion der Befunde und schließlich folgt ein umfangreicher Anhang mit Tabellen, aber ohne Bereitstellung weiternutzbarer digitaler Daten.

Das methodische Vorgehen, um einen aussagekräftigen Vorher-Nachher-Vergleich zu erhalten, ist schlau ausgeklügelt. Paxinos teilt seine Fundkomplexe in vier Perioden A bis D (S. 33 ff.), die jeweils weiter in 50-Jahresblöcke unterteilt werden – außer Periode B, welche die zweite Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts, also die Zeit unmittelbar nach der großen Pestepidemie von 1347 ff. umfasst. Bei diesem Perioden-System handelt es sich nicht um relativchronologische Stufen, wie wir sie als Archäologen gewohnt sind, sondern um eine Klassifikation der Fundkomplexe nach ihrer absoluten Datierung und der Möglichkeit ihrer chronologischen Zuweisung. Periode A bezeichnet im Allgemeinen den Zeitraum vor dem Schwarzen Tod. Er ist in vier Stufen unterteilt, wobei die Perioden A2 bis A4 den besonders relevanten Zeitraum zwischen 1200 und 1350 abdecken.

Periode A1 ist länger als die sonst angesetzten 50-Jahresschritte, da in der Realität viele, nämlich 57 Fundkomplexe auch noch ältere, frühund hochmittelalterliche Knochen beinhalten, die eben in dieser Periode A1 zusammengefasst sind.

Periode B beschränkt sich allein auf den kurzfristigen Zeitraum unmittelbar nach dem Schwarzen Tod, in dem sich Bevölkerungsrückgang und Wüstungsprozess fortsetzten. Daten, die in diese Periode fallen, zeigen also die kurzfristigen Auswirkungen der Pest. Nur in zwei Fundkomplexen – in dem des Kölner Doms und dem des Fischmarkts in Konstanz, die in Teil 2 detailliert ausgewertet werden – lassen sich tatsächlich Funde auf Periode B eingrenzen. Periode C ermöglicht mit insgesamt 19 Fundkomplexen die Erfassung langfristigerer Trends, da sie zweigeteilt das 15. Jahrhundert umfasst. Insgesamt 17 Komplexe sind dem 16. Jahrhundert als Periode D zuzuweisen.

Fundstellen mit geeigneten chronologisch differenzierbaren Funden des 14. Jh. sind also nicht besonders häufig. Auch Köln und Konstanz spiegeln aufgrund der jeweiligen Sekundärablagerung in der Kirche bzw. einer Landgewinnung am Seeufer nicht unmittelbar das Konsumverhaltens eines einzelnen Haushalts. Hinzu kommt, dass Handwerkerabfälle eine besondere Rolle spielen. So ist es trotz zahlreicher stadtarchäologischer Grabungen bisher nur bedingt gelungen, eine solide Datenbasis zu schaffen, die für eine gezielte übergreifende Fragestellung, wie sie Paxinos verfolgt, wirklich ausreichend wäre. Die besonders wichtigen Funde aus ländlichen Siedlungen fallen für eine Auswertung sogar völlig aus. Paxinos stellt S. 88 fest, dass sich die Datenbasis für ländliche Siedlungen gegenüber der Synthese von Benecke (1994) vor fast 25 Jahren kaum verbessert habe. Ländliche Siedlungen sind v.a. nach 1350 noch immer unterrepräsentiert (S. 33), obgleich die Wüstungsforschung seit dem 19. Jahrhundert ein nicht ganz unwesentliches Forschungsfeld darstellt. Angesichts des immensen Zuwachses denkmalpflegerischer Maßnahmen im Rahmen der immer wichtigeren privatwirtschaftlichen Archäologie ist das sehr bedenklich, denn offenbar gelingt es nicht, die zahllosen Rettungsgrabungen effektiv als historische Quellen in Wert zu setzen. Problematisch ist auch, dass gerade Latrinen und Brunnen, die Archäologen immer als besonders spannend erachten, im Hinblick auf die Praxis der Tierhaltung kaum auszuwerten sind, da hier besondere Prozesse einer primären Formation vorliegen.

Paxinos vergleicht auf Basis dieser chronologischen Einteilung (sowie einer regionalen Differenzierung) die Statur der Tiere, repräsentiert durch Robustheit und Widerristhöhe, die Geschlechtszusammensetzungen und die Altersspektren.

Die Analyse der Daten zeigt vielfältige Veränderungen auf. Das Rind beispielsweise nimmt in den Perioden A1 bis A3 mehr als die Hälfte des Fundmaterials ein, sinkt in Periode A4 bis B auf 44 % und steigt im 15. Jahrhundert kurzfristig auf 46,7 %, ehe es in Periode D nur noch bei 37,5 % liegt (S. 91). Auffallend – aber noch nicht ausreichend untersucht – ist die Beobachtung, dass Katzenfunde insbesondere in Latrinen nach der Pest zunehmen, sodass es zumindest denkbar erscheint, dass man der „bösen“ Katze eine Mitschuld an der Katastrophe gab und sie in der Folge häufiger tötete und im Müll entsorgte (S. 93). Allerdings könnte es auch sein, dass die steigende Zahl von Katzen mit einem erhöhten Rattenvorkommen zu tun hat. Letzteres kann Paxinos mit seinen Fundkomplexen nicht überprüfen. Hier deutet sich aber an, wie wichtig archäo-zoologische Untersuchungen auch an Kleintieren wie Nagern, aber auch Vögeln wären, da sie für das Verständnis von Epidemien, aber auch von Landschaftswandel gerade im Spätmittelalter grundlegend sind.

Basierend auf seiner Datenanalyse eröffnet Paxinos die Diskussion (Teil 4) mit der Arbeitshypothese, dass „die spätmittelalterliche Krise im Allgemeinen und der Schwarze Tod im Besonderen […] kurz- und/oder langfristig zu Veränderungen in der Viehnutzung des Spätmittelalters

[führte]

. Diese Veränderungen spiegeln sich nicht nur in einer Verschiebung der wirtschaftlichen Bedeutung der einzelnen Nutztiere, sondern auch in einer Änderung ihres Phänotyps wider.” (S. 121). Die Kapitel 12 und 13 werten die Ergebnisse der Einzeluntersuchungen bzw. der überregionalen Untersuchung aus und zeigen, dass es im 14. Jahrhundert die postulierten kurz- und langfristige Veränderungen tatsächlich gegeben hat. Die Untersuchung der Größenparameter Robustheit und Größe belegt Veränderungen bei der Haltung und Fütterung der wichtigsten Nutztiere während des Spätmittelalters. Die Rinder aus Köln und Konstanz beispielsweise sind im Zeitraum von hundert Jahren nach der Pest deutlich kleiner und zierlicher.

Letztlich kann der Band die Frage nicht klären, inwiefern der beobachtete Wandel tatsächlich ursächlich mit der Pest zusammenhängt. Methodisch hat Paxinos hier den Weg einer Korrelation beschritten, der bestenfalls ein zeitliches und räumliches Zusammenfallen feststellen, aber keine Aussagen zu Wirk- und Kausalzusammenhängen liefern kann. Der fragestellungsorientierte Fokus auf das 14. Jahrhundert wird hier insofern problematisch, als kaum zu erfassen ist, wie stark die normale Variabilität in der Zeit ist und inwiefern dem 14. Jahrhundert tatsächlich die Qualität einer Zäsur zukommt.

Plausible Erklärungen sind nur aus der Perspektiveder Humanökologie zu gewinnen, diedann in Hypothesen und konkrete Fragen umzusetzensind. Möchte man die tatsächlich wichtigeFrage nach der Krise des 14. Jahrhunderts klären,so muss mittels DNA-Untersuchungen die Geschichteund Verbreitung von Yersinia pestis weiter geklärt und der Wandel der mittelalterlichen Kulturlandschaft auf seine Auswirkungen auf Biotope, Biodiversität, Mikroklima und Böden untersucht werden (vgl. Schreg, 2011). Die Routinearbeit der Denkmalpflege, die allein die nötige Quantität an Daten liefern könnte, ist damit hoffnungslos überfordert, denn es müssten beispielsweise gezielt auch die Knochen von kleinen Nagern und Vögeln ausgeschlämmt werden, Proben für die Genetik bereitgestellt werden, archäobotanische Umweltrekonstruktionen realisiert und Off-site-Archive viel mehr in den Fokus der Denkmalpflege genommen werden als es derzeit denkmalpolitisch und finanziell zu leisten ist.

Noch aber scheint auch im Fach – egal ob an den Universitäten oder der Denkmalpflege – kaum Bewusstsein für die Bedeutung dieser „theoretischen” Fragen und für die methodischen Ansätze vorhanden zu sein. Paxinos deutet die weiteren Zusammenhänge nur an, doch zeigt seine Arbeit mustergültig, welches historische Potenzial in der Archäozoologie steckt, und dass sie mehr ist als eine Artenliste der Tierknochenfunde – sofern den Knochen bei Ausgrabung und Publikation die gebührende Aufmerksamkeit und Sorgfalt geschenkt wird. Paxinos leistet einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Weiterentwicklung von Fragestellung und Methoden und es ist zu wünschen, dass die auf den ersten Blick sehr spezielle Arbeit breit rezipiert wird.

Literatur

  • Benecke, N. (1994). Archäozoologische Studien zur Entwicklung der Haustierhaltung in Mitteleuropa und Südskandinavien von den Anfängen bis zum ausgehenden Mittelalter. (Schriften zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte 46). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
  • Bos, K. I., Schuenemann, V. J., Golding, G. B. u. a. (2011). A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death. Nature 478, 7370, 2011, 506–510.
    https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10549
  • Bos, K. I., Stevens, P., Nieselt, K., Poinar, H. N., DeWitte, S. N., Krause, J., Gilbert, M. T. P. (2012). Yersinia pestis: New Evidence for an Old Infection. PLoS ONE 7,11, 2012, e49803.
    https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0049803
  • Prillof, R.-J. (2000). Tierknochen aus dem mittelalterlichen Konstanz. Eine archäozoologische Studie zur Ernährungswirtschaft und zum Handwerk im Hoch- und Spätmittelalter. (Materialhefte zur Archäologie in Baden-Württemberg 50). Stuttgart: Theiss.
  • Schreg, R. (2011). Die Krisen des Späten Mittelalter – Perspektiven, Probleme, Potentiale. In F. Daim, D. Gronenborn & R. Schreg (Hrsg.), Strategien zum Überleben. Umweltkrisen und ihre Bewältigung. (RGZMTagungen 11). (S. 195-214). Mainz: RGZM.

 Rainer Schreg

Rainer Schreg

archaeologist professor in medieval and postmedieval archaeology at Bamberg university

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CfP EAA Barcelona 2018: Re‐thinking medieval and early modern pestilences from a biosocial perspective: advanced methods and renewed concepts in archaeological sciences

EAA Barcelona 2018 – 5‐8 September 2018
Call for Papers and Posters
Deadline: 15 February 2018
Re‐thinking medieval and early modern pestilences from a biosocial perspective: advanced methods and renewed concepts in archaeological sciences

While contagious diseases have affected the human species since its origins, great medieval epidemics (e.g. plague, leprosy, tuberculosis) have sparked particular interest for decades. In recent years, archaeology has played an increasing role in the scientific study of medieval pestilences, notably by providing reliable data on both the paleobiology of epidemic victims and their burial treatment. Despite the various breakthroughs reached by interdisciplinary research, the study of past epidemics still needs to get improved, particularly through an integrated analysis of biological and social dimensions of these diseases, which are closely interrelated. We invite contributions regarding both recent methodological advances in the retrospective diagnosis of infectious diseases and the output of archaeological sciences on social and cultural factors acting in human populations’ adaptability to these diseases.

The session shall address various questions, among which:
– What are the new lines of research and future perspectives in paleopathological and palaeomicrobiological study of these diseases?
– What information paleobiological data derived from skeletal assemblages can provide on the epidemiological characteristics of the diseases?
– What was the endemicity of diseases in various places, how did they evolve over time, and how did various diseases competed each other?
– How funerary archaeology and textual sources contributes to reappraise the history of these diseases (e.g. attitudes towards the victims in terms of their integration and/or exclusion, depending on the time period and cultural framework)?
– Which methodological implementation would be desirable in the future to allow retrospective diagnosis of still poorly-known diseases (e.g. ergotism)?

Keywords: Archaeology, Paleomicrobiology, Paleopathology, Medieval, Epidemics

Session details:
– Session theme: Theories and methods in archaeological sciences
– Session ID: #413
– Session type: Session, made up of a combination of papers, max. 15 minutes each
Session organizers:
– Dr. Dominique Castex, CNRS, UMR 5199 – PACEA, Université de Bordeaux, Pessac, France, dominique.castex@u-bordeaux.fr
– Dr. Mark Guillon, Inrap, UMR 5199 – PACEA, Université de Bordeaux, Pessac, France, mark.guillon@inrap.fr
– Maria Spyrou, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany, spyrou@shh.mpg.de
– Marcel Keller, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany, keller@shh.mpg.de
– Dr. Sacha Kacki, Department of Archaeology, Durham University, United Kingdom, sacha.s.kacki@durham.ac.uk

Abstract submission deadline:
15 February 2018

If you are interested to submit a Paper or Poster proposal, please use the conference website at
https://www.e‐a‐a.org/EAA2018/
Further information, including registration details, general and practical information, etc. can be found on the conference website

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network
Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

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