Intriguing Science Discovery: Just in Time for the Winter Solstice!

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

70 replies
  1. 1
    Adam L Silverman says:

    What did Tom Levenson know and when did he know it?

  2. 2
    Jeffro says:

    Aarrgghh…struggled to stay awake at Dave Matthews, only to come home just in time to watch the Chiefs choke…

    …oh well, at least I’m not Tom Barrack 🤣

  3. 3
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    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.

    When they say “replace”, is that a euphemism?

  4. 4
    SRW1 says:

    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.

    That sounds a bit garbled. The 200-year period probably is the accuracy window of the dating method used, not the time frame within which the 78 people died and were buried at the site.

  5. 5
    Mike in NC says:

    Is there anything to the stuff about daily scandals happening in the Donald J. Trump administration? // Rip Van Winkle

  6. 6
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: Unfortunately for the neolithic farmers, white polo shirts, tiki torches, and red MAGA hats had not yet been invented. As a result, they were replaced by the people of the steppes.

  7. 7
    Mnemosyne says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷:

    Not necessarily. Humans being humans, there probably were some wars and massacres, but humans also like to get together and make more humans, so the “replacement” also happened because the people who survived the plague had babies with the new arrivals.

  8. 8
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @SRW1: That was my impression as well when I read that.

  9. 9
    jl says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: If the invaders replaced the European neolithic farmers by conquering them or pushing them out of their homeland, then yes, it is a euphemism. But if for the most part the invaders replaced uninhabited space left by dead European neolithic farmers who had been killed decades or a century for few before, then not so much a euphemism.

    Thanks to AL for an interesting news storiy.
    But I need to remind myself that clicking into BL for a feel good happy time post is an iffy proposition. Usually don’t work.

  10. 10
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: I was going to do a Florida woman, men, and alligator post, but she was already drafting this.

  11. 11
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Who later would become the white Europeans they jerk off about.

    I’ll never understand their obsession with skin color and the imagined connection that it has with culture.

    Seriously. I don’t give a shit what your skin color is or what religion you believe in, as long as you believe in democracy and the shared civic commitment we as American citizens all share.

    I remember watching a video by the National Policy Institute and was shocked at their appeals to an imagined shared white culture and their denigration of modern capitalist society (which is problematic, but still). I found it so bizarre and offputting; like the narrator was some kind of alien. The message was overtly anti-individualism.

  12. 12
    Platonailedit says:

    EU to Theresa: Your loons are your problem.

    European Union leaders have said the Brexit withdrawal agreement is “not open for renegotiation”, despite appeals from Theresa May.

    She wanted legal assurances on the Irish backstop to help her deal get through Parliament, after she delayed a Commons vote in anticipation of defeat.

    The PM said the deal was “at risk” if MPs’ concerns could not be addressed.

    European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said there could be clarifications but no renegotiation.

    He urged the UK to set out more clearly what it wants, adding that the commission will publish information on 19 December on its preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

    Mrs May urged EU leaders to work with her to “change the perception” of the controversial backstop plan.

    But European Council president Donald Tusk said the withdrawal agreement was “not open for renegotiation”.

    You can’t have eat the fucking cake and have it too.

  13. 13
    jl says:

    @Mnemosyne: I read a piece on population genetics history that the bad kind of ‘replace’ is usually indicated by sudden change in male haplotype which is figured out mainly by Y chromosome.
    I don’t think the maternal haplotypes from mitochondria are understood well enough yet (or maybe not sampled well enough yet) to get a overall picture. But I think geneticists can suss out the ‘bad’ kind of replace where you kill the men and take the women.

    But you are correct, some of it is just folks just kind of getting to know each other. Might not be violent, or violent. I remember watching a genetic history special, where some researchers wondered if humans and neanderthals could reliably tell that they were supposed to be different critters when the met and mated.

  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Ruh Roh!!!

    Donald Trump’s former Chicago tax attorney, Alderman Ed Burke, had his City Hall office raided by the FBI on Thursday — and it wasn’t the first time he had an office searched by the bureau.

    NBC5 political editor Carol Marin tweeted Thursday evening that Burke’s City Hall office was “re-raided” by the bureau — the second time his office had been raided in a month after the FBI searched it on November 29.

    More at the link!

  15. 15
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:


    What do BJers think about the Statue of Liberty being used as a logo of the Democratic Party?

  16. 16
    jl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: “I was going to do a Florida woman, men, and alligator post, but she was already drafting this. ”

    We may have some disagreements on whether Floriduh-man and -women and -alligator posts are happy time feel good or not. I’ll just leave it at that for now.

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: You get into the Zima again?

  18. 18
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: This one definitely was not.

  19. 19
    Fair Economist says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: I like it although the Libertarian Party has used it in the past so there could be some confusion.

  20. 20
    jl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Well, there you go. Tonight’s plan to click for a happy time BJ bedtime post wouldn’t have worked no matter what.

  21. 21
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    I actually thought about this possibility after I posted my comment. I guess my mind assumes the worst at first.

  22. 22
    Ohio Mom says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: No. Neither party should ever appropriate shared symbols of our country. (I know the right has claimed the flag, and the answer to that is our side doing flag waving as well).

  23. 23
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: But, but, but alligators! There were going to be alligators!!!!!!!

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: That made sense because her middle name is Rose. A rose bud in place of the lamp’s flame makes no sense without that context.

  26. 26
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Unless you want your party to be a social democratic one. Many other Soc Dem parties have the rose as their logo.

    I think the Dems are more or less heading in that direction. We’re largely there already.

  27. 27
    Yutsano says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: Nah. She’s a symbol for all of us.

  28. 28
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Ohio Mom:
    I think it’s important to begin to associate patriotism and love of country with liberalism, a strong civic commitment to democracy itself, multiculturalism, as well as economic equality. Explicitly. A call to spread these values to other countries to increase global stability should also be emphasized. Call it New Nationalism. Or New Patriotism if “nationalism” has too much baggage.

  29. 29
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: I happen to like Lady Liberty just as she is.

  30. 30
    divF says:

    @Yutsano: It’s more like
    Democrats: Statue of Liberty
    Republicans: Statute of Limitations

    ETA: Also, I think that the GOP is expressly rejecting the ideals that the Statue represents, such as the end of slavery after the Civil War, and the welcoming of immigrants.

  31. 31
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Ohio Mom:
    Well, you could say the Democratic Party represents all Americans, in spirit, if not in reality. I think using the Statue of Liberty would be fine. The ACLU has used it in the past.

  32. 32
    JGabriel says:


    She’s a symbol for all of us.

    Is she? Conservative Extremists (aka Republicans) have been decrying the statue and particularly Emma Lazarus’s poem for a while now.

    Besides, I’m a little tired of seeing our party represented as a jackass. Fun fact: The Democratic Party’s use of a jackass for it’s logo/mascot grew out Andrew Jackson’s critics mocking him as Andrew Jackass.

    Seeing that Andrew Jackass represents much of what the modern Democratic Party opposes, maybe a new logo for the Democrats would be a good idea. And the Statue of Liberty looks to me like a pretty good choice: pro-liberty, pro-woman, pro-diversity/immigration, and pro-American.


    I think that the GOP is expressly rejecting the ideals that the Statue represents, such as the end of slavery after the Civil War, and the welcoming of immigrants.

    I agree.

  33. 33
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    TBF, a few years back, the Dems came up with a new logo. It’s kind of uninspired in my opinion.

  34. 34
    lamh36 says:

    links…ok here:

    JUST IN: NYT reports that “federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry”

  35. 35
    JGabriel says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷:

    TBF, a few years back, the Dems came up with a new logo. It’s kind of uninspired in my opinion.

    This one?

    Uninspired is right. And uninspiring. It looks like it was designed as a logo for kiosks that supply directions at airports.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    I apologize if this ruins the show for any fans of “Bull,” but I’m feeling the need for some kind of rough justice today:

    Actress Eliza Dushku won a $9 million settlement from CBS after she complained about being harassed by the star of “Bull” during a guest appearance and CBS subsequently withdrew an offer to make her a regular, which turns out to be illegal retaliation in California.

    Apparently the highlight of the mediation was when the executive producer of the show played video from the set in an attempt to prove that Dushku was exaggerating about how bad it was and only managed to convince the judge that Dushku was telling the exact truth since everything she complained about was right there on the tape.

    Full (though long) story at the FTNYT:

  37. 37
    Aleta says:

    @lamh36: “whether”

    I wish they’d call me; I could answer that.

  38. 38
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    That happened to Wisdom of the Crowd too.

    Dr Jason Bull is the charming and cocky founder of successful trial consulting firm Trial Analysis Corporation, where he and his team of experts employ psychology, human intuition and high-tech data to understand jurors, lawyers, witnesses and defendants, and construct effective narratives to help their clients win. Bull’s team include his brother-in-law Benny, neurolinguistics expert Marissa, former detective Danny, hacker Cable, and Chunk, who helps perfect clients’ appearances for trial. `Bull’ is inspired by the early career of Dr Phil McGraw, who also serves as an executive producer.

    Honestly, there’s something unethical about that premise that I’m too tired to identify.

  39. 39
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    That’s the one.

  40. 40
    oatler. says:

    “Tap one little bumper…”
    “Newsflash! Nobody’s perfect”

  41. 41
    Aleta says:

    Plague then could have spread across trade networks made possible by wheeled transport, which had expanded rapidly throughout Europe by that time, Rascovan said.

    The wheel. Somebody must have predicted it would be trouble, but nobody listened.

  42. 42
    Platonailedit says:


    Wish fynyt had done such in-depth stories about the totus thug when it mattered most. Now they are just bandwagonning #metoo movement.

  43. 43
    Yarrow says:

    @Mnemosyne: Man, the culture at CBS must be really toxic. Glad she won a settlement.

  44. 44
    NotMax says:

    @Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)

    Too French.


    Although it has worked for the Liberty Mutual insurance company for ages.

  45. 45
    NotMax says:

    @Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)

    Trivia: the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty used his mother as a model for the face, a woman whose reputation in real life throughout the area they resided was that of a being nasty, wholly unlikable harridan.

  46. 46
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    Wow. I never knew that. Well, it seems the sculptor’s mom got the last laugh since she was immortalized and has become a symbol of hope for tens of millions over the last century or so

  47. 47
    NotMax says:

    @Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)

    More trivia: There are 2 Statues of Liberty in NY/NJ, the second being one of the (relatively) miniature models which toured the country to raise money for the full size statue’s transport, construction and placement. That second one sits atop a building a stone’s throw north of Columbus Circle in Manhattan, looking south to where the big one is in the harbor.

  48. 48
    KithKanan says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: I was two years old when they stopped using it, but it reminds me of the 1969-1983 AT&T logo more than anything else. The symbolism there could be better.

    “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Democratic Party.” is the sort of thing that connection brings to mind.

  49. 49
    cwmoss says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: Fucking awesome! But I speak only for myself.

  50. 50
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @lamh36: I cited this in my post about the SDNY investigation into the inauguration.

  51. 51
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mnemosyne: What did very special agent Anthony Dinozo do now?

  52. 52
    NotMax says:


    Jocularly referred to at the time as the Bell ‘Nazi helmet’ logo. Saul Bass was responsible for the design of plenty of inventive movie opening and closing credit designs, but he kind of missed the boat on that Bell logo.

  53. 53
    KithKanan says:

    @NotMax: He designed their “Death Star” post-breakup logo too, so who’s to say the resemblance wasn’t intentional?

  54. 54
    sukabi says:

    @Adam L Silverman: weatherby made some very inappropriate comments to one of the actresses that was going to be a regular on Bull…as a result of her bringing attention to the comments she was written out of the show…they settled with her in arbitration for 9.5 million as the outtakes cbs provided as proof she was over reacting proved what she claimed was accurate.

  55. 55
    smike says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷:
    “…spread these values to other countries…” is where things can become problematic. I think you might be able to say that Russia was trying to “spread their values” in recent times.

    How about, “offer, and hope to instill, our values in other countries.”?

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:


    the outtakes CBS provided as proof she was over reacting proved what she claimed was accurate.

    I have to admit, that’s the part that boggles me a bit. Apparently the dude’s behavior was so normalized that the show’s producers thought that showing the video of what he said would clear the whole thing up.

    ETA: Dushku is not my cup of tea as an actress, but she’s well-established on television and has been the star of several shows, so it’s not like she was some nobody who would have to swallow the abuse for the sake of her career.

  57. 57
    sukabi says:

    @Mnemosyne: there was also a bit in there that cbs lawyers thought because she cursed on set that it would negate her claim because she wasn’t behaving like a lady…😵 whole bunch of guys need to pull their heads out of their asses.

  58. 58
    J R in WV says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷:

    When they say “replace”, is that a euphemism?

    No. I tried to be snarky, but it doesn’t work when you don’t feel the snark, and there really isn’t anything snarky feeling about being replaced in the long ago, or today, by ICE or the Border Patrol.

  59. 59
    prostratedragon says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Who is Ed Burke? Chicago is tingling with anticipation. Burke’s been raided before, but this time feels different, especially with the repeat. And the cell phone.

  60. 60
    J R in WV says:


    @Adam L Silverman: “I was going to do a Florida woman, men, and alligator post, but she was already drafting this. ”

    We may have some disagreements on whether Floriduh-man and -women and -alligator posts are happy time feel good or not. I’ll just leave it at that for now.

    Won’t that depend upon what Floriduh-man and -women and -alligator do thgether? Sometimes it’s non-tragic funny stupid, and other times there’s death and misery, so that would be less happy time…

  61. 61
    Aleta says:

    A pod of Orcas interacted with a swimmer off the coast of New Zealand and the remarkable encounter was captured from overhead by a man operating a drone. A once-in-a-lifetime encounter to be sure.

    The video says “playing.” Or teaching/practicing hunting skills? Beautiful though.

  62. 62
    LeeM says:

    @Aleta: I’ve had dolphins surprise me while surfing and paddling. Still scares the crap out of me when they suddenly show up- and they seem to enjoy my reaction. “BOO! Got you”.. of course we have sharks that just cruise by too.

  63. 63
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @prostratedragon: I’d say he was trump’s soulmate but trump has no soul.

  64. 64
    Cermet says:

    @Aleta: With food for Orca’s getting more scarce and them even eating otters now, not too safe to meet them in the ocean – while nothing to date, they are 7 tons and getting more hungry thanks to our over fishing their food supply.

  65. 65
    low-tech cyclist says:

    Those people clearly didn’t Beat The Reaper.

  66. 66
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @low-tech cyclist: Slow clap.

  67. 67
    EBT says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: Violently wiping out a population is basically a Christain invention.

  68. 68
    Jamey says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: Look what happened last time we used a white woman as our standard-bearer…

  69. 69
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @EBT: Gengis Khan was a Christian?

  70. 70
    dr. luba says:

    @NotMax: There’s also one in Paris

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