The source of the Black Death – the inspiration behind many black metal songs – has finally been identified by European researchers, according to a report from the UK Underground this week. The Black Death was the bubonic plague of the 14th century which is still the deadliest recorded pandemic in human history.
But where it first appeared has been disputed by scientists for more than six centuries.
Now, perhaps ground zero for the Black Death has finally been located. Although the research may seem archaic, the subject is of great importance to humanity. Especially since the world is currently experiencing another deadly pandemic, COVID-19, which has killed more than one million Americans since March 2020, according to a New York Times database.
The Black Death is estimated to have killed 75 million to 200 million people in Africa, Asia and Europe from 1346 to 1353. While most scientists have long believed the virus responsible originated somewhere in Asia, it does not has never been definitively identified.
But the new research team from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany and Scotland’s University of Stirling said they had found the point of origin. They concluded that deaths in an earlier outbreak in the 14th century in modern Kyrgyzstan were due to strains of the same bacteria, Yersinia pestiswho ultimately created the pathogens found in the Black Death.
“It’s like finding the place where all the strains come together, like with the coronavirus where we have Alpha, Delta, Omicron all coming from this strain in Wuhan, [China]“, explained to Nature the German paleogeneticist Johannes Krause, one of the researchers of the study.
The researchers found their answer by analyzing DNA (ancient DNA or “aDNA”) from skeletal teeth from cemeteries in the Tian Shan region of Kyrgyzstan. They did this after identifying a spike in burials in the area in 1338 and 1339. From there they located the bacteria.
“Our study puts to rest one of the most important and fascinating questions in history and determines when and where the most notorious and infamous killer of humans began,” added a fellow researcher.
The Black Death is also known as the Great Mortality, Plague, or simply Plague. It is estimated to have killed 30-60% of the European population and about a third of the population of the Middle East. This was part of a crisis in the Middle Ages following the Great Famine of 1315-1317.
Photo above: Protective clothing for plague victims in the 17th century.