— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 7, 2018
Oh, look, the opening to a plague movie that actually involves The Plague!:
… The finding suggests that the germ may have devastated settlements across Europe at the end of the Stone Age in what may have been the first major pandemic of human history. It could also rewrite some of what we know of ancient European history.
The finding came about as the researchers were analyzing publicly available databases of ancient DNA for cases in which infections might have claimed prehistoric victims. They focused on the previously excavated site of Frälsegården in Sweden. Previous analysis of a limestone tomb at the site found that an estimated 78 people were buried there, and they all had died within a 200-year period. The fact that many people died in a relatively short time in one place suggested they might have perished together in an epidemic, lead study author Nicolás Rascovan, a biologist at Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, told Live Science. The limestone tomb was dated to the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, the period when farming began.
The researchers discovered the previously unknown strain of plague in the remains of a woman at the Frälsegården site. Carbon dating suggested she died about 4,900 years ago during a period known as the Neolithic Decline, when Neolithic cultures throughout Europe mysteriously dwindled.
Based on her hip bones and other skeletal features, they estimated the woman was about 20 years old when she died. The plague strain found with her had a genetic mutation that can trigger pneumonic plague — the deadliest form of historic and modern plague — suggesting the woman likely died of the disease…
The new findings contradict an older theory about how plague spread, according to the researchers. About 5,000 years ago, humans migrated from the Eurasian steppe down into Europe in major waves, replacing the Neolithic farmers who lived in Europe at that time. Previous research had suggested the steppe folk brought the plague with them, wiping out pre-existing settlements upon their arrival. However, if the plague specimen from the Swedish grave diverged from other strains 5,700 years ago, it likely evolved before the steppe migrations began — suggesting it was already there.
Rather, the researchers suggested that the plague emerged in so-called mega settlements of 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants that existed in Europe between 6,100 and 5,400 years ago. These mega settlements — up to 10 times larger than previous European settlements — “had people, animals, and stored food close together, and, likely, very poor sanitation. That’s the textbook example of what you need to evolve new pathogens,” senior study author Simon Rasmussen, a computational biologist at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement…