So what is wrong with listening to the drumbeat, to the endless calls to protect ourselves against the coming plague – against Ebola from Africa and bird flu from Asia? Is it possible that a huge pandemic could erupt from some as-yet unknown pathogen? Is apocalypse lurking out there, among rats or monkeys, or bats or flying squirrels or birds? The Black Death shows that you can never say never: there might be an animal pathogen out there that, under the right circumstances, can evolve and maintain both virulence and transmissibility among humans as well as animals.
Alkebu-lan 1260 AH (higher resolution) is an alternative history map of Africa in AD 1844, taking as its point of departure from our timeline an even deadlier medieval Black Death, killing almost all Europeans. It is made by Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon, who explains some of his sources and thinking in this Prezi presentation. Cyon's thinking about alternative history is partly inspired by playing the computer game Civilization, and he has made a mod where you can play the medieval kingdom of Kongo
Alison Atkin is a Ph.D. student in osteoarchaeology at the University of Sheffield, studying plague cemeteries. Her research is presented in this quirky, hand-drawn poster. Don't miss GIFs of the interactive panels at her blog, Deathsplanation.
Research on DNA extracted from the skulls of Black Death victims has revealed that the plague was not spread by rat fleas after all, and instead must have been airborne. [more inside]
DNA from the teeth of medival corpses confirm that the Black Death was caused by Yersinia pestis. [more inside]
New Scientist reports today that inhabitants of the former Roman Empire have much lower levels of a gene variant that protects against the virus that causes AIDS - CCR5-Delta32 to be exact. Previously, this genetic mutation had been attributed to the spread of the Black Death.
"I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else. Any advice would help." How to rock the Middle Ages with your bad 2008 self.
Retrospectacle on the Plague. Shelley Batts is a neuroscience PhD candidate who writes the great blog Retrospectacle [Prev]. She's recently posted a series on the bubonic plague: It's real and perceived causes (1 2), the bizarre medical garb doctors used, and modern cases of Yersinia pestis* infection in the U.S. and the world.
Mum, I’m playing a syphilitic Hackney whore being impassively tupped by a boil-faced plague-pit digger in the desperate belief that my pox will cure his plague
Mum, I’m playing a syphilitic Hackney whore being impassively tupped by a boil-faced plague-pit digger in the desperate belief that my pox will cure his plague If you didn't have the chance to see the Channel 4 programme about the Black Death don't worry, this article is much more entertaining.
Black Death Decoded: the BBC is reporting that scientists have decoded the genetic structure of the bacterium responsible for the plague. More information is available here. Meanwhile Harvard is working on an anthrax antidote.