Plague linked to mysterious disappearance of Europe’s first farmers

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Science

Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news on fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.The oldest known plague victims date back to around 5,000 years ago in Europe. But it’s never been clear whether two cases, one in Latvia and one in Sweden, were isolated and sporadic or evidence of a wider outbreak.A new study, based on ancient DNA recovered from 108 prehistoric individuals unearthed at nine grave sites in Sweden and Denmark, suggests that an ancient form of the plague might have been widespread among Europe’s first farmers and could explain why this population mysteriously collapsed over the space of 400 years.“It’s fairly consistent across all of Northern Europe, France and it’s in Sweden, even though there are some quite big differences in the archaeology, we still see the same pattern, they just disappear,” said Frederik Seersholm, a postdoctoral researcher at the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen in Denmark and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.This group, known as Neolithic farmers, migrated from the eastern Mediterranean, replacing small bands of hunter-gatherers and bringing agriculture and a settled lifestyle to northwestern Europe for the first time around 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Their legacy lives on in the continent’s many megalithic graves and monuments, the most famous of which is Stonehenge.Archaeologists intensely debate the cause of this population’s disappearance between 5,300 and 4,900 years ago. Some attribute their demise to an agricultural crisis brought on by climate change and others suspect disease.“All of a sudden, there’s no people getting buried (at these monuments) anymore. And the people who were responsible for building these megaliths (are gone),” Seersholm said.Violence was unlikely to have played a role, Seersholm said, with the next wave of newcomers, known as the Yamnaya, arriving from the Eurasian steppe after a gap in the archaeological record.The study found that forms of the bacterium that causes plague were present in 1 in 6 ancient samples, suggesting infection …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnSign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news on fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.The oldest known plague victims date back to around 5,000 years ago in Europe. But it’s never been clear whether two cases, one in Latvia and one in Sweden, were isolated and sporadic or evidence of a wider outbreak.A new study, based on ancient DNA recovered from 108 prehistoric individuals unearthed at nine grave sites in Sweden and Denmark, suggests that an ancient form of the plague might have been widespread among Europe’s first farmers and could explain why this population mysteriously collapsed over the space of 400 years.“It’s fairly consistent across all of Northern Europe, France and it’s in Sweden, even though there are some quite big differences in the archaeology, we still see the same pattern, they just disappear,” said Frederik Seersholm, a postdoctoral researcher at the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen in Denmark and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.This group, known as Neolithic farmers, migrated from the eastern Mediterranean, replacing small bands of hunter-gatherers and bringing agriculture and a settled lifestyle to northwestern Europe for the first time around 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Their legacy lives on in the continent’s many megalithic graves and monuments, the most famous of which is Stonehenge.Archaeologists intensely debate the cause of this population’s disappearance between 5,300 and 4,900 years ago. Some attribute their demise to an agricultural crisis brought on by climate change and others suspect disease.“All of a sudden, there’s no people getting buried (at these monuments) anymore. And the people who were responsible for building these megaliths (are gone),” Seersholm said.Violence was unlikely to have played a role, Seersholm said, with the next wave of newcomers, known as the Yamnaya, arriving from the Eurasian steppe after a gap in the archaeological record.The study found that forms of the bacterium that causes plague were present in 1 in 6 ancient samples, suggesting infection …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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