Via The Independent, more on a very big story: Black Death skeletons dug up during London Crossrail excavations. Excerpt:
Carbon dating techniques on 10 of the skeletons conducted by scientists from Queen's University Belfast indicated three separate “phases” of burials - coinciding with known separate outbreaks of the plague in the capital.
The Black Death spread from Europe to England in 1348 and the layer of bodies found at the bottom of the excavation site are estimated to have been buried between 1348 and 1349, while a second layer were dated to coincide with a second outbreak of the plague in 1361, the researchers said.
The final layer of bodies were laid to rest between 1433 and 1435 - when another devastating event of plague swept through London. Four of the skeletons had remnants of the Yersinia pestis bacteria - which causes plague - on their teeth, DNA analysis showed.
The findings will be featured in a new Channel 4 programme, Return Of The Black Death, during which scientists from Public Health England in Porton Down will argue that the DNA evidence shows that the plague must have been spread by coughs and sneezes rather than fleas on rats - as has been popular belief for many years.
The team led by Dr Tim Brooks argue that the infection spread so fast that it must have got into the lungs of already malnourished victims, meaning the outbreaks were in fact pneumonic plague rather than a bubonic plague.
Many of the bodies showed signs of poor health and of having jobs that involved heavy manual labour, the Queen's University researchers said, noting a high rate of back damage and strain.
Four out of the 10 remains analysed are from people that grew up outside the capital, as far north as Scotland, showing that, just as today, London drew people from across the country.
Osteologist Don Walker, from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola), said he was “amazed” how much information could be gleaned about each person.
“The skeletons discovered at Crossrail's Farringdon site provide a rare opportunity for us to study the medieval population of London that experienced the Black Death,” he said.
“We can start to answer questions like: where did they come from and what were their lives like? What's more, it allows for detailed analysis of the pathogen, helping to characterise the history and evolution of this devastating pandemic.”