Black Plague Burial Ground Found

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Our discussion on epidemics this week reminded me of a BBC news broadcast that I happened across one afternoon as I was flicking through channels. It was really interesting so I proceeded to find the article to share with you all today :).

Basically, it had been speculated that a burial ground was known to be in an area outside of London, but its exact location remained a mystery. Well, now they found it. As excavators were digging, going forward in London’s Crossrail project (a high-speed train project), bodies were found. Archeologists believe that the excavators actually unearthed a burial ground dating back to the time of the Black Death (whooooo *spooky*).

A little about the Black Death…

This terrible plague started in Europe in 1328 and lasted until 1351 although there were outbreaks for the next sixty years. Although it is classified as a pandemic rather than an epidemic, I think it is still worthy of mentioning for the sake of discussing spreading disease. Anyway, the disease was called the Black Death because one of the symptoms produced a blackening of the skin around the swellings. They were red at first, but later turned a dark purple, or black. When a victim’s blood was let the blood that exuded was black, thick and vile smelling with a greenish scum mixed in it (*eeew*).

The Black Death was spread by fleas that were carried by rats or other small rodents, but it was also thought to follow all of the Trade Routes. Teams have already discovered skeletons near Liverpool Street which is a known Bronze-Age transport route (detailed map can be seen in the article link). They also found the largest piece of amber ever found in the UK (pretty cool eh!).

Most importantly though, the bodies may contain DNA from the bacteria responsible for the plague – from an early stage in the pandemic – helping modern epidemiologists track the development and spread of differing strains of a pathogen that still exists today.