Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail

Date:
February 4, 2008
Source:
University of Albany
Summary:
Despite the long-held assumption by historians that Europe's Black Death of 1347 to 1351 killed indiscriminately, a new research shows that the deadly plaque targeted the already ill and weak.

Despite the long-held assumption by historians that Europe's Black Death of 1347 to 1351 killed indiscriminately, a new report by University at Albany anthropologist Sharon DeWitte and Pennsylvania State University researcher James Wood finds that the deadly plaque targeted the already ill and weak.

The report's conclusions, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the Black Death -- the deadliest known epidemic in human history -- was selective in killing the ill, while many of the otherwise healthy survived the infection, refuting the assumption that it killed the healthy and sick alike, irrespective of age, sex or frailty.

Researchers examined a total of 490 skeletons from the East Smithfield cemetery in London -- set up to bury victims of the Black Death -- to test whether mortality associated with the outbreak of the Black Death was selective with response to preexisting health conditions. Frailty was indicated by the presence of at least one skeletal lesion known from prior research to be associated with earlier episodes of infection, under-nutrition or other forms of physiological stress.

As a comparison, they analyzed the bones of 291 genetically and culturally similar people buried in a Danish cemetery shortly before the plague began. Among the East Smithfield plague victims, bone lesions showed that many of those people were already in poor health when the Black Death struck.

"Studying the Black Death is relevant today in that it gives us some insight into who might be at highest risk for new, emerging diseases like SARS and Ebola," said DeWitte, assistant professor of anthropology at UAlbany.

Key findings of the report include:

Level of excess mortality for each lesion was higher in Denmark than in East Smithfield, suggesting that the Black Death was not as strongly selective as normal mortality.

Black Death was selective with respect to at least some of the skeletal indictors of frailty, as individuals who had those lesions before the Black Death appear to have been more likely to die during the epidemic than individuals without them.

In Denmark, during times of normal mortality, individuals with periosteal lesions of the tibia were more than five times more likely to die than their peers without such lesions; however during the Black Death, individuals who had tibial lesions before the outbreak were only about 50 percent more likely to die than their unaffected peers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Albany. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Albany. "Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204124738.htm>.
University of Albany. (2008, February 4). Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204124738.htm
University of Albany. "Black Death Selective In Its Wrath: Plague Targeted The Weak, Frail." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204124738.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins