The Black Death that ravaged Europe in the 14th century could be much older than previously thought
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have been able to identify three British cases of Yersinia pestis , the plague-causing bacterium, as 4,000 years old, constituting the oldest evidence of plague in Britain to date, an article reports. published today in Nature Communications .
In collaboration with the University of Oxford, the Wells and Mendip Museum and the Levens Local History Group, the team identified two cases of Yersinia pestis which were found in human remains in a mass burial site at Charterhouse Warren, Somerset, and another in a monument. in the form of a ring in Levens (Cumbria).
They then took small samples from the skeletons of 34 individuals from these two sites and detected the presence of Yersinia pestis in the teeth. This technique is performed in a special medical room where the tooth is drilled and the dental pulp is extracted, which helps to trap DNA traces of infectious diseases.
When DNA was analyzed, three cases of Yersinia pestis in two children whose estimated age at death ranged from 10 to 12 years, and a woman between the ages of 35 and 45 was found. Radiocarbon dating showed that all three people likely lived around the same time.