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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The source of the Black Death in fourteenth-century central Eurasia
Author(s): Spyrou, Maria A
Musralina, Lyazzat
Gnecchi Ruscone, Guido A
Kocher, Arthur
Borbone, Pier-Giorgio
Khartanovich, Valeri I
Buzhilova, Alexandra
Djansugurova, Leyla
Bos, Kirsten I
Kühnert, Denise
Haak, Wolfgang
Slavin, Philip
Krause, Johannes
Keywords: Archaeology
Evolutionary genetics
Issue Date: 23-Jun-2022
Date Deposited: 24-Jun-2022
Citation: Spyrou MA, Musralina L, Gnecchi Ruscone GA, Kocher A, Borbone P, Khartanovich VI, Buzhilova A, Djansugurova L, Bos KI, Kühnert D, Haak W, Slavin P & Krause J (2022) The source of the Black Death in fourteenth-century central Eurasia. Nature, 606 (7915), pp. 718-724.
Abstract: The origin of the medieval Black Death pandemic (AD 1346–1353) has been a topic of continuous investigation because of the pandemic’s extensive demographic impact and long-lasting consequences1,2. Until now, the most debated archaeological evidence potentially associated with the pandemic’s initiation derives from cemeteries located near Lake Issyk-Kul of modern-day Kyrgyzstan1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. These sites are thought to have housed victims of a fourteenth-century epidemic as tombstone inscriptions directly dated to 1338–1339 state ‘pestilence’ as the cause of death for the buried individuals9. Here we report ancient DNA data from seven individuals exhumed from two of these cemeteries, Kara-Djigach and Burana. Our synthesis of archaeological, historical and ancient genomic data shows a clear involvement of the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis in this epidemic event. Two reconstructed ancient Y. pestis genomes represent a single strain and are identified as the most recent common ancestor of a major diversification commonly associated with the pandemic’s emergence, here dated to the first half of the fourteenth century. Comparisons with present-day diversity from Y. pestis reservoirs in the extended Tian Shan region support a local emergence of the recovered ancient strain. Through multiple lines of evidence, our data support an early fourteenth-century source of the second plague pandemic in central Eurasia.
DOI Link: 10.1038/s41586-022-04800-3
Rights: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
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