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Article: The Archaeology of “Plague” by Daniel Antoine

Daniel Antoine uses the Black Death burial site at East Smithfield, London to provide a background into the archeology studies of ancient plagues. Antoine not only will discuss archaeology, but to also show the limitations of archaeological data.

The Royal Mint burial ground in East Smithfield London is used as the basis of Antoine’s paper. In 1986 the large cemetery was discovered. The site contained two mass burial trenches and a mass burial pit filled with hundreds of skeletons. Antoine cites written evidence that the Royal Mint site was an emergency burial ground built to cope with the Black Death epidemic. It is believed that a majority of the 2400 bodies buried at Royal Mint died due to the Black Death.

Antoine brings up that Yersinia Pestis may not be the cause of the Black Death. He starts presenting his theory with bringing up that some researchers have found differences in the epidemic of 1347-1349 and recent outbreaks of the bubonic plague. He references Stephen Porter on the role of rats and the fleas they carry. Europe winter climate would have made it hard for fleas to reproduce. The cold weather would have slowed if not stopped to spread of the disease. According to the text there is no evidence of the winter months stopping the spread of the disease. The rats themselves are vulnerable to the plague, there is a lack of evidence that dead rats were piling up like the humans. There are two well documented fifteenth-century plague epidemics in Iceland referenced that rats are believed to have settled on the island until much after the epidemic. Antoine offers that Scott and Duncan (both cited) suggest a highly lethal and contagious virus. In the article Daniel Antoine discusses the role of archaeology in the investigation of ancient plagues. He briefly goes over archaeology multidisciplinary approach and describes the sub disciplines of vertebrate and intertebrate zooarchaeology,...
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