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Bones in Egypt, bones in London

3 April 2014

At www.livescience.com/44476-ancient-egyptian-tomb-with-pyramid-entrance-di… … a tomb at Abydos has yielded up a vaulted burial chamber, a sandstone sarcophagus painted red and a small pyramid near the entrance that is 23 feet high. It belonged to a scribe, Horemhab – but the body was missing as the grave had been ransacked on at least two occasions in the past. The excavator thinks the man's family had military connections (hae was named after the general Horemhab) wehile a nearby tomb belonged to a Ramesesu (thought to be he his brother and named after 19th dynasty figures of note). A lot of skeletons were found in the tombs, many of them of women, and have not as yet been carbon dated (although a date in the 19th or 20th dynasty appears likely).

Meanwhile, at http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/london-skeletons-re… …. victims of the Black Death have been unearthed during construction work on Cross Rail (a tunnel under London linking different rail tracks). It looks as if the tunnel workers (these are not deep tunnels like the Tube) have impinged on a cemetery that was just outside the medieval city – in what is now Cavendish Square. Traces of Yersima pestis (plague bacterium) were found in several of the teeth of skeletons that have been examined. Some also revealed traces of malnutrition and it is suggested this may have a link with the Great Famine that occurred 20 or so years prior to the plague. The bodies were wrapped in shrouds and buried in neat and efficient rows and sealed with a layer of London clay. They were arranged in layers which may indicate bodies from several outbreaks of plague. It is thought thousands of bodies exist in the cemetery and the plague genome from the teeth is being analysed at McMaster University in Canada in order to learn more about the disease. They want to know if the 14th century version was different to modern examples of the plague.

The same story is at www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/29/black-death-not-spread-rat-fleas… … has a different take. Apparently the plague was spread in the air – it was airborne transmission. This is a breakthrough, I suppose, as the plague has always been considered to have been highly contagious and elaborate maps of its spread from north of the Black Sea across western Asia and into Europe (by ships and rats) have periodically been produced and we have been assured that it was spread person to person. Now, if it was airborne, this raises a different question – could it have arrived from outer space? This second link was provided by Gary Gilligan and he suggested that meteor showers from a broken apart comet might have been the source – which is reminiscent of Mike Baillie's ideas in his book, New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection, Tempus:2006. According to scientists working at Porton Down for the plague to spread so quickly as it appears to have done it must have got into the lungs of victims who were malnourished and then spread by coughs and sneezes. They say the plague was pneunomic rather than bubonic and infection was spread from person to person rather than by rat fleas biting the victims. They make the point the plague could never have spread so quickly by rats and it must therefore have been airborne. Hence, if there was a cosmic connection, this might explain the rapidity. However, at the moment that is an explanation too far.

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