The coronavirus pandemic was a breeze compared to the scourge of the Black Death.
The medieval disease, also known as the bubonic plague, killed as many as 25 million people in Europe in one outbreak in the mid-14th century, according to National Geographic.
Historians and scientists have long pointed to Central Asia as the likely source of the most severe outbreak of the disease.
Now, a new study is nailing down the Black Death’s point of origin with unprecedented specificity.
Researchers are pointing to a lake in modern-day Kyrgyzstan as an early source of the Black Death strand of the plague.
A team of academics and scientists identified the DNA of the Black Death strand of the plague in human remains at cemeteries near Lake Issyk-Kul.
Tombstone inscriptions describe the cause of death of the deceased individuals as “pestilence.”
The bacteria Yersinia pestis causes the disease. Molecular dating of the remains pins the introduction of the plague in humans at 1338 or 1339.
The study’s authors are pointing to the nearby Tian Shan Mountains as a reservoir of the disease.
Travelers would bring the plague from the province of the Mongol Empire to Europe and the Islamic world.
It wasn’t the first time that the bubonic plague had infected humans. But it was among the most lethal outbreaks of the disease, killing almost a third of Europe’s population in less than 10 years.
The bubonic plague is transmitted when infected fleas bite humans after attaching themselves to small animals such as rats.
The Black Death pandemic of the late Middle Ages changed human history.
Europe was depopulated in the wake of its onslaught, a development that paved the way for the end of medieval feudalism and the settling of the New World.
The outbreak of the 14th century wasn’t the end of the disease, and the bubonic plague continued to kill millions of people until as late as the 20th century.
The plague’s dangers are blunted by modern medicine, but it isn’t extinct.
According to Live Science, cases still occur in the western U.S. where the native rodent populations carry the disease.