A recent study analyzing the remains of plague victims buried in London during the Black Death has found that individuals with Black African ancestry had a higher risk of death compared to others. The research challenges the perception of medieval England as a homogeneous white society and reveals the considerable diversity that existed at the time.
The study, conducted by experts at the Museum of London and published in the journal Bioarchaeology International, examined the remains of 145 individuals buried in various plague cemeteries. By analyzing several features of the skulls and utilizing a forensic databank, the researchers determined the probable affinity of the individuals with different populations.
Out of the sample, nine plague victims appeared to have African heritage, while 40 had white European or Asian ancestry. Among the non-plague burials, eight individuals were of African heritage, and 88 had white European or Asian ancestry. While the sample size is small, these findings suggest a higher proportion of people with Black African heritage in the plague burials compared to the non-plague burials.
Further analysis, using mathematical modeling, indicated that women with Black African heritage had a greater risk of dying from the plague compared to individuals of similar ages with white European heritage. The researchers explain that this may be attributed to the experiences of discrimination and hardships faced by women of color, who often worked in domestic service during that era.
These findings shed light on the impact of the Black Death on different populations in medieval England, challenging the perception that the disease indiscriminately affected all individuals. Previous studies have also shown that poor nutrition preceding the plague increased the risk of death from the disease.
The research highlights the importance of acknowledging and understanding the ethnic and ancestral diversity that has been a part of England’s history for thousands of years. It paves the way for further research into the experiences and lives of individuals from various ancestries during the plague years and the broader historical context.
Q: How many individuals were included in the study?
A: The study analyzed the remains of 145 individuals buried in various plague cemeteries in London.
Q: How did researchers determine the ancestry of the individuals?
A: By analyzing five features of the skulls and utilizing a forensic databank covering modern and historical populations, the researchers established the probable affinity of the individuals with different populations.
Q: Did the study find any differences in the mortality rate between individuals of African heritage and others?
A: Yes, the analysis suggested that women with Black African heritage had a greater risk of dying from the plague compared to individuals of similar ages with white European heritage.
Q: What factors might have contributed to the higher risk of death among individuals of African heritage?
A: The researchers hypothesize that women of color, who often worked in domestic service and experienced race and sex-based discrimination, faced significant hardships and a higher risk of disability, making them more vulnerable to the disease.
Q: What are the implications of this research?
A: The study challenges the perception of medieval England as a homogeneous white society and emphasizes the importance of recognizing the ethnic and ancestral diversity that has existed throughout the country’s history. It opens avenues for further research into the experiences of diverse populations during the plague years and their wider historical context.