» Home > In the News

3rd century AD plague and downturn

17 June 2014

At www.livescience.com/46335-remains-of-ancient-egypt-epidemic-found.html … is a report on bodies covered in a thick layer of lime found in Egypt. Lime was used to disinfect disease ridden bodies – in order to stop the spread of the virus. Lime kilns were also found (to make the lime, usually from limestone) and what looks like the remains of a giant bonfire (as in a real bone fire as it is theorised bodies were burnt before being thrown in a grave and covered in lime).

The pottery dates to the 3rd century AD when the Plague of Cyprian ravaged the Roman Empire (and across the known world). Cyprian was a bishop of Carthage in N Africa – not too distant from Egypt. The Roman Empire stalled between AD250-71 which includes in Britain and Gaul. It is likely it involved more than just a plague but this article concentrates on just that side of events. Civil order broke down in Britannia and a powerful warlord exercised political control over huge swathes of the province – even minting his own coins. He was ousted when eventually a reorganised and revitalised Roman administration was able to find the resources and manpower to bring peace to all corners of the empire. In many ways this temporary setback, a political blip in a long imperial era, was reminiscent of what happened to the Persians in the late 5th century BC – the details of which remain very sketchy.

Skip to content