Black Death grave reveals secrets of 14th century life

Teeth and bones from skeletons discovered at Charterhouse Square in London are providing scientists with a new look at what life was like in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Courtesy of London Crossrail

Skeletons dug up by Crossrail, a massive railway project in London, are giving scientists a more detailed look at the bubonic plague, or Black Death, that swept through Europe in the 1300s.

Studies of the bones suggest that the bubonic plague was pneumonic, spreading through sneezes and coughs rather than by bites from rat fleas. The bones also suggest that the people of this time were extremely malnourished, which may have made fighting infection more difficult. The graveyard where the skeletons were found was used to bury plague victims for at least 100 years, scientists say. The team reported these and other findings March 30.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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