Saturday, April 19, 2014

Medieval malnutrition

BBC article on plague victims shows a lot of malnutrition:

Skeletons unearthed in London Crossrail excavations are Black Death victims from the great pandemic of the 14th Century, forensic tests indicate.
Their teeth contain DNA from the plague bacteriumYersinia pestis and their graves have been dated to 1348-50.
this is important because some revisionist historians doubted that the plague was the plague.

Analysis of the skeletons' bones and teeth indicates that:
  • Many of the skeletons appear to suffer signs of malnutrition and 16% had rickets.
  • There is a high rate of back damage and strain indicating heavy manual labour.
  • The later skeletons from the 1400s had a high rate of upper body injury consistent with being involved in violent altercations.
  • 13 of the skeletons were male, three female, two children, the gender was undetermined in the other seven skeletons.
  • 40% grew up outside London, possibly as far north as Scotland - showing that 14th Century London attracted people from across Britain just as it does today.

there was climate cooling and famines in the years before the plague, and it was thought that this was why there was so much malnutrition. Of course, many who went to London to work were probably the rural poor who never ate well to begin with.

What is often lacking is the knowledge that the plague also decimated Asia (so much for the church hating pc who blamed the plague on the "fact" that the Catholic church hated cats so allowed rats to flourish, ignoring barn owls and snakes of course, and the fact that the plague is spread via the black rat, not the present day rats of Europe, and that pneumonic plague killed many in crowded cities/houses).

I ran across a lecture about Egypt and the plague: That the depopulation resulted in the collapse of the irrigation system from the Nile, and then more deaths from famine.

But the Eurocentric history ignores such things.

Similarly, the Plague of Justinian was Pestus, and helped destroy post Roman Europe. I am reading a book on that period, and there is archeological evidence that some parts of central Europe was depopulated, allowing the Slavs etc to take over...

And how much of the "fall of Rome" was from the various epidemics? Was the fall of the population of Rome caused by malaria killing many  children? Rome started on a tidal swamp where they made salt, but remained swampy and allowed Egyptian malaria to spread.

Similarly one wonders how much of the "we're going to get malaria from global warming" folks recognize that much of Europe had malaria once, until the monks drained the swamps. That "Green" love of "wet lands" is not good.

One part of England was fatal to newcomers until the swamps were drained. And one wonders if the high mortality of the Anglo Saxon kings etc. was from malaria and other nice diseases...presumably that's why they drank so much beer and wine...

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