The plague came to Europe in the Stone Age


  Positive Skeleton for Plague Copyright of image
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The plague may already have been able to cause epidemics in the Stone Age

The plague was present in Europe during the last Stone Age, according to a study of ancient remains.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, researchers suggest that the deadly bacteria entered Europe with a mbadive migration of people from the East. [19659007] They detected more than 500 ancient skeletal samples and recovered the complete genomes of the pest bacteria from six individuals.

These six date between Neolithic and Bronze Age times.

The positive samples for the plague come from Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia and Croatia.

"The two samples from Russia and Croatia are among the oldest positive plague samples published, they are contemporary with [a] previously published sample from the Altai region [in Siberia]", co-author Alexander Herbig, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News

The cause of the Great Plague in London confirmed

The plague goes back to the Bronze Age

The bacterium of the plague, Yersinia pestis was responsible for several important historical pandemics, including the infamous Black Death in the fourteenth century, which is estimated to have killed between 30% and 60% of the population of Europe.

Analysis of the ancient plague DNA shows that Y. pestis Neolithic and Bronze Age genomes were all closely related.

This is intriguing because the individuals from whom they were recovered come from such a wide geographical area.

"This suggests that the plague entered Europe several times during this period from the same deposit or once entered the Stone Age and stayed there," said co-author Aida Andrades Valtueña, also of the Max Planck Institute in Jena. .

To clarify which scenario was most likely, the researchers looked for clues from the archeology and badysis of ancient human DNA.

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Yersinia pestis is the bacterial agent of the plague

Since about 4,800 years ago, there was a great expansion of people towards Europe from a region called the Caspia-Póntica steppe in present-day Russia and Ukraine.

These people carried a distinctive genetic component, also seen in Siberians and Native Americans – who had not been present in Europeans before the late Neolithic.

The first signs of plague in Europe coincide with the arrival of this "steppe ancestor" in Europeans.

Dr. Herbig said that this supports "the view that Y. pestis possibly entered Europe from the steppe about 4,800 years ago, where it established a local reservoir before returning to Central Eurasia."

The badysis shows that the genes of the plague bacteria are related to virulence changing at this time. But more work is needed to determine how these changes affected the severity of the disease.

However, it is certainly possible that these principles Y. pestis bacteria were already capable of causing epidemics on a large scale.

Steppe people may have mobilized to escape a plague outbreak, although the effects of climate change on the landscape of this region may also have played an important role. paper.

The disease could also have been involved in profound genetic changes seen in European populations at this time. In some regions, the steppes seem to have largely replaced the earlier Neolithic inhabitants.

"It is possible that certain European populations, or steppes, may have had a different level of immunity [a Y. pestis ]," said Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute.

Dr. Herbig commented: "The plague could have been a factor among others that promoted migration processes during this period of time, however, our current data has insufficient resolution to see how the specific regions of Europe they were affected differently by the disease. "

He added that the team planned to select more skeletal material from across Europe as a next step.

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