DNA in London Grave May Help Solve Mysteries of the Great Plague
Scientists can use samples from skeletons’ teeth to answer lingering questions about the Black Death.
The strain of bacteria that caused the Great Plague of London in 1665 has been identified for the first time. Scientists recovered DNA of Yersinia pestis—known to have been responsible for the Black Death in the 14th century—from skeletons discovered last year during the construction of the new Crossrail underground rail link beneath London.
The Liverpool Street excavation cut through the remains of the old Bedlam Burial Ground, which was used between 1569 and the early 18th century. In all more than 3,300 skeletons were recovered, including a mass grave of 42 individuals who archaeologists suspected may have been plague victims.
The discovery of Yersinia pestis DNA in the teeth in five of these individuals confirms they did