Black Death, mid-fourteenth century plague, is undoubtedly the most famous historical pandemic. Within only five years it killed 30-50% of the European population. Unfortunately it didn’t stop there. Plague resurged throughout Europe leading to continued high mortality and social unrest over the next three centuries.
Marseille was a major hub for European trade
Archaeology holds many of the answers to these questions if you know where to look for clues. An international team of scientists led by members of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, has taken one important step forward to understanding the European plagues of our not-so-distant past.
The report the reconstruction of complete pathogen genomes from victims of the Great Plague of Marseille (1720-1722), which is conventionally assumed to be the last outbreak of medieval plague in Europe. Using teeth from plague pits in Marseille, the team was able to access tiny fragments of DNA that had preserved for hundreds of years.
But, the calamity is now almost totally absent in Western Europe, triggering questions why the disease abruptly disappeared from Europe, where did the outbreaks started, where was it hiding between outbreaks.