Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Origins of the Black Death

Research into the origins and diffusion of the mid-fourteenth century Black Death has proceeded on various fronts on recent years, possibly accentuated by our experience of coronavirus.

Looking for evidence of Y pestis in human remains from Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia in the nineteenth century and dated to 1338-9 has yielded evidence of the disease. Locating it in that region is not new but having direct evidence of deaths decade before it reached Europe along the trade routes that connected the two regions is a valuable addition to our knowledge. As is pointed out in the reports there may well be other centres that vectored the plague, but this does indicate at least one point on the map and that such research methods do yield results. It is not a complete answer in itself but it helps build a fuller picture, a better understanding.

The BBC News website outlines the discovery at Plague: Ancient teeth reveal where Black Death began, researchers say and there is more about the project from Scientific American at Ancient Women's Teeth Reveal Origins of 14-Century Black Death

1 comment:

John R Ramsden said...

It has been speculated, and maybe by now there is evidence (?), that when the Celts first ventured forth from their original homelands on the Russian steppes and thereabouts, starting in around 3200 BC, they had some resistance to the plague and carried it with them.

This had the unfortunate effect, although handy for the Celts, of almost wiping out the indigenous populations they encountered and led to the latters' widespread replacement, analogous to the way western newcomers to the Americas decimated local populations with diseases the locals had not previously encountered.

It would certainly help explain why even by classical times Indo-European languages had spread over such a wide area ranging from Europe to India, when the only technical advantage the Celts appear to have, which others did not, when they started their diaspora was the ability to break in and ride horses.

John Ramsden