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In a nearly 5,000-year-old tomb in Sweden, researchers have discovered the oldest-known strain of the notorious bacterium Yersinia pestis — the microbe responsible for humanity's perhaps most-feared contagion: the plague.
The finding suggests that the germ may have devastated settlements across Europe at the end of the Stone Age in what may have been the first major pandemic of human history. It could also rewrite some of what we know of ancient European history.
Finding - Researchers - Databases - DNA - Cases
The finding came about as the researchers were analyzing publicly available databases of ancient DNA for cases in which infections might have claimed prehistoric victims. They focused on the previously excavated site of Frälsegården in Sweden. Previous analysis of a limestone tomb at the site found that an estimated 78 people were buried there, and they all had died within a 200-year period. The fact that many people died in a relatively short time in one place suggested they might have perished together in an epidemic, lead study author Nicolás Rascovan, a biologist at Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, told Live Science. The limestone tomb was dated to the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, the period when farming began.
In this week's Strange News Snapshot, we discuss a new Atlantis theory, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in the International Space Station's toilets and the plimp airship — a cross between a plane, blimp and helicopter.
Newfound - Strain - Plague - DNA - Scientists
By comparing the newfound strain with known plague DNA, the scientists determined that the ancient sample was the closest known relative of the plague bacterium's most recent ancestor. The study researchers theorized that the ancient sample diverged from other plague strains about 5,700 years ago.
The new findings contradict an older theory about how plague spread, according to the researchers. About 5,000 years ago, humans migrated from the Eurasian steppe down into Europe in major waves, replacing...
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