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8 June 2019

At https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2019/06/what-happened-to-anc… …. Helike was a famous Greek city that sunk into the coastal mud of the Gulf of Corinth in 373BC during a terrible earthquake. According to Paulinus in the 2nd century AD the sea advanced together with the earthquake and the wave dragged down Helike with all its people. Apparently, tectonic forces are periodically pulling the Peloponesse peninsular apart from the mainland. Today, the Gulf is 100km from Corinth to Patras (E to W) and 20km wide (N to S). There is a massive crevice beneath the Gulf – opened up after thousands of tremors over thousands of years. Much of the depths are filled in by sediments washed down from the surrounding hills. Now, a drilling team are hoping to recover a history of the seismic jolts via a core into the sediments.

The Times of London has a report on a PNAS study on the Justinian plague – as revealed by ancient genomes. The same story is at https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2019/06/details-of-first-his… … some 8 plague genomes from Britain, Germany, France, and Spain uncovered a previously unknown level of diversity in Y. pestis strains. They also found the first genetic evidence of the Justinian Plague in the British Isles – at an Anglo Saxon period site at Edix Hill (dated to AD544). The first pandemic had a life of around 200 years (repeated outbreaks) and there were multiple strains of plague in various parts of Europe. What does this mean? Bascially, Y. pestis  strains independently evolved similar characteristics. Could an atmospheric origin have played a role as suggested by Mike Baillie in a book on the Black Death (in the 14th century AD). The evidence is that Y. pestis was changing and and adapting over the period of its life and was able to spring back to life on several occasions. No wonder there was a reduction in population levels in Europe – and probably elsewhere in the world. Its longevity was also a feature of the second outbreak of the plague (the Black Death) whereas changing strains do not seem to be a problem in plague outbreaks in more recent times.

The Times says that early A/S England was densely settled and it is likely the whole country was ravaged – much like the later Black Death. Does this explain why the Romano British went into decline and the Anglo Saxons were in a position to seize the reigns of power in the aftermath.


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