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What is the ‘Black Death’?

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    18th Jun, 2022


Recently, in a study published in the journal Nature, researchers have claimed that the disease originated in modern day northern Kyrgyzstan around 1338-1339 – nearly 7-8 years before it ravaged large parts of the world.

What is Black Death?

  • The term Black Death refers to the bubonic plague that spread across Western Asia, Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe in 1346-53.
  • Most scholars agree that the Black Death, which killed millions, was caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis and was spread by fleas that were carried by rodent hosts.
  • The microorganism pestis spread to human populations, who at some point transmitted it to others either through the vector of a human flea or directly through the respiratory system.


  • The onset of symptoms was followed by intense fever and vomiting of blood.
  • After the initial infection, most victims died within 2-7 days.

Why was this called as the Black Death?

  • It is commonly believed that the term Black Death gets its name from the black marks that appeared on some of the plague victims’ bodies.
  • In the 14th century, the epidemic was referred to as the ‘great pestilence’ or ‘great death’, due to the demographic havoc that it caused.
  • The world black also carried a dark, gloomy emotional tone, due to the sheer amount of deaths generated by the plague.

Significance of the discovery

  • The geographical origin point of the plague has been debated for centuries.
  • Some historians have argued that the plague originated in China, and spread across Europe by Italian merchants who first entered the continent in trading caravans through Crimea.
  • Another story argues that Mongol army hurled plague-infested bodies into the city during the siege of Caffa (Crimea) and led to the spread of the disease.

Verifying, please be patient.