A new study confirms: The Black Plague was not global and did not kill half the population of Europe

دراسة جديدة تؤكد: الطاعون الأسود لم يكن عالميا ولم يفتك بنصف سكان أوروبا  لطالما اعتُقد أن الطاعون الأسود -الذي ضرب أوروبا بين عامي 1346 و1353- كان أكثر جائحة خلفت دمارا بأوروبا، وأنه أسفر عن مقتل من 30 إلى 50% من السكان. واستنادا إلى الموروثات الشعبية ووثائق مسؤولي الدول أو الكنيسة حينها، فإنه يسود الاعتقاد بأنه لم يدع ركنا من أركان القارة إلا دخله.  غير أن هذه الوثائق لا تغطي جغرافيا كل بلدان القارة؛ إذ رصدت الوثائق ما خلفه الطاعون في إيطاليا وإنجلترا بالتفصيل، في حين لم توجد سوى أدلة ضئيلة لدول أخرى، مثل بولندا.  ولذا، فقد اهتمت دراسة حديثة -نشرت في دورية "نيتشر إيكولوجي آند إيفولوشن" (Nature Ecology & Evolution) في العاشر من فبراير/ شباط الجاري- بالكشف عن طرق مختلفة لمعرفة مدى ما وصلت إليه وفيات الطاعون الأسود في أرجاء متنوعة من القارة.  وطبقا للتقرير الذي نشره موقع "ذا كونفرسيشن" (The Conversation)، فقد استخدم الباحثون 1634 عينة لحبوب لقاح أحفورية مجموعة من 261 بحيرة وأرضا رطبة في 19 دولة أوروبية.  حافظات طبيعية تعتبر البحيرات والأراضي الرطبة سجلات حافظة للطبيعة؛ إذ تتراكم فيها باستمرار بقايا الكائنات الحية والتربة والصخور والغبار. ويمكن لهذه الرواسب الموحلة أن تحفظ مئات وآلاف السنين من التغير البيئي بين طياتها. وتمثل الطبقات العليا من الرواسب الوقت الحاضر، في حين يقبع الماضي في الطبقات السفلى منها.  ونظرا لأن بنية حبوب اللقاح تتكون من بوليمرات معمرة وذات شكل مميز لكل نبات، فإن من الممكن إحصاءها وتمييزها في عينات الرواسب المختلفة. ولذا، فإنها تتيح للعلماء بناء المشهد الذي كانت عليه تلك المنطقة من جديد، ومعرفة التغيرات التي طالته بمرور الوقت.  ولذا، فلو فرضنا أن ثلث أو نصف سكان أوروبا قد مات في فترة الطاعون، فإننا نتوقع بالتبعية انخفاضا ملحوظا في المساحات المزروعة في العصور الوسطى. ولذلك قام العلماء باستخدام تقنيات إحصائية متقدمة لاختبار صحة هذه الفرضية في مناطق مختلفة من القارة.  بيئة الطاعون الأسود وبالفعل، فقد أكتشف العلماء أن الجنس البشري قد انخفض بشكل كبير في أجزاء من أوروبا بعد وصول الطاعون الأسود؛ إذ شوهدت دلائل هذا الحال في كل من جنوب السويد ووسط إيطاليا واليونان. وعلى النقيض، فلم تُر أي شواهد لانخفاض تعداد البشر في مناطق مثل كاتالونيا أو التشيك.  كما ازدادت معدلات الزراعة التي تتطلب كثافة في الأيدي العاملة في بلدان أخرى، مثل بولندا ودول البلطيق ووسط إسبانيا؛ حيث استمر التوسع في الرقعة الزراعة من دون انقطاع طيلة فترة العصور الوسطى المتأخرة (1225 إلى 1500 ميلاديا). ومن ثم، فإن معدل الوفيات لم يكن عالميا، كما أن الطاعون الأسود لم يكن كارثة عالمية.  وتتلاءم هذه الرواية الجديدة عن الطاعون الأسود -باعتباره كارثة محلية- مع ما نعرفه عن كيفية انتشار الطاعون بين الناس وفي القوارض والبراغيث؛ فالطاعون هو مرض يصيب القوارض البرية والبراغيث. ويعتبر البشر مضيفين عرضين، إذ إنهم غير قادرين على تحمل المرض لفترة طويلة.  التأثير الديموغرافي للطاعون الأسود ولطالما ركز المؤرخون منذ أوائل القرن العشرين على الفئران وبراغيثها في تفسيرهم لكيفية انتقاله إلى البشر، كما توقعوا أنه يتصرف بشكل مماثل في العديد من الأماكن.  وعلى الرغم من أن كيفية انتقاله من القوارض إلى البشر كانت وما زالت محل دراسة، إلا أننا نعرف أن انتشاره في المجتمعات البشرية يتم عبر عدة طرق، وغالبا ما يصاب به البشر من لدغات البراغيث. وبمجرد انتقاله إلى البشر، فإن سلوك البشر -وكذلك ظروف المعيشة ونمط الحياة والبيئة المحلية- يؤثر في قدرة الطاعون على الانتشار. ولذا، فإن المجتمعات تستجيب بشكل مختلف للطاعون، ولذا فلا ينبغي أن نتوقع انتشار الطاعون دائما بالطريقة نفسها.   ومن ثم، فإن هذه الرواية الجديدة عن الطاعون الأسود تدفعنا إلى إعادة التفكير في كيفية انتشاره، وكيف أثر على نحو 75 إلى 90% من الأوروبيين الذين كانوا يعيشون في الريف ونمط حياتهم وتنقلاتهم في مسار الوباء، وما العوامل التي ساعدت في انتشار القوارض وتنقلها.  كما أن اكتشاف وجود هذا التنوع المحلي المذهل لتبعات الطاعون الأسود في الماضي يدفعنا إلى توخي الحذر عندما نقوم بإجراء تعميمات سريعة تتعلق بالكيفية التي انتشر بها ومدى التأثير الذي خلفه أحد أكثر الأوبئة شهرة في التاريخ.   A new study confirms: The Black Plague was not global and did not kill half the population of Europe  The Black Plague, which struck Europe between 1346 and 1353, has long been believed to have been the most devastating pandemic in Europe, killing between 30 and 50 percent of the population. And based on popular traditions and documents of state or church officials at the time, it is believed that he did not leave any corner of the continent except his income.  However, these documents do not cover the geography of all countries of the continent; Documents documented the aftermath of the plague in Italy and England in detail, while there was scant evidence for other countries, such as Poland.  Therefore, a recent study - published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution on February 10 - was interested in revealing different ways to find out the extent of black plague deaths in various parts of the continent.  According to the report , published by The Conversation, researchers used 1,634 fossil pollen samples from 261 lakes and wetlands in 19 European countries.  Natural preservatives Lakes and wetlands are nature's preserved records; It constantly accumulates the remains of living organisms, soil, rocks and dust. These muddy sediments can hold hundreds and thousands of years of environmental change in between. The upper layers of sediment represent the present, while the past lies in the lower layers.  Since the structure of pollen grains consists of durable polymers and has a distinct shape for each plant, it can be counted and distinguished in different sediment samples. Therefore, it allows scientists to reconstruct the scene that was in that region, and to know the changes that affected it over time.  Therefore, if we assume that a third or half of the population of Europe died during the plague, we would expect a significant decrease in the cultivated areas in the Middle Ages. Therefore, scientists used advanced statistical techniques to test the validity of this hypothesis in different regions of the continent.  Black plague environment Indeed, scientists have discovered that the human race declined dramatically in parts of Europe after the arrival of the Black Plague; Evidence of this was seen in southern Sweden, central Italy and Greece. In contrast, no evidence of human population decline has been seen in regions such as Catalonia or the Czech Republic.  Labor-intensive agriculture has also increased in other countries, such as Poland, the Baltic states and central Spain; The expansion of the agricultural area continued without interruption throughout the late Middle Ages (1225 to 1500 AD). Hence, the death rate was not universal, and the Black Plague was not a global catastrophe.  This new account of the Black Plague as a local disaster fits with what we know about how plague spread between people and in rodents and fleas; Plague is a disease of wild rodents and fleas. Humans are considered occasional hosts, as they are not able to tolerate the disease for long.  The demographic impact of the black plague Since the early 1900s, historians have focused on rats and their fleas in their explanation of how it was transmitted to humans, and have speculated that it behaves similarly in many places.  Although how it is transmitted from rodents to humans has been and continues to be studied, we know that its spread in human societies occurs through several ways, and humans are most often infected with flea bites. Once transmitted to humans, human behavior—as well as living conditions, lifestyle, and the local environment—affects the plague's ability to spread. So, societies respond differently to plague, so we should not expect plague to always spread in the same way.  Hence, this new account of the Black Plague prompts us to rethink how it spread, how it affected about 75 to 90% of Europeans who were living in the countryside, their lifestyle and their movements in the course of the epidemic, and what factors helped the spread and transmission of rodents.  The discovery that there was such an astonishing local diversity of the aftermath of the Black Plague leads us to be cautious as we make quick generalizations about how it spread and the extent of the impact of one of history's most famous epidemics.

A new study confirms: The Black Plague was not global and did not kill half the population of Europe


The Black Plague, which struck Europe between 1346 and 1353, has long been believed to have been the most devastating pandemic in Europe, killing between 30 and 50 percent of the population. And based on popular traditions and documents of state or church officials at the time, it is believed that he did not leave any corner of the continent except his income.

However, these documents do not cover the geography of all countries of the continent; Documents documented the aftermath of the plague in Italy and England in detail, while there was scant evidence for other countries, such as Poland.

Therefore, a recent study - published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution on February 10 - was interested in revealing different ways to find out the extent of black plague deaths in various parts of the continent.

According to the report , published by The Conversation, researchers used 1,634 fossil pollen samples from 261 lakes and wetlands in 19 European countries.

Natural preservatives
Lakes and wetlands are nature's preserved records; It constantly accumulates the remains of living organisms, soil, rocks and dust. These muddy sediments can hold hundreds and thousands of years of environmental change in between. The upper layers of sediment represent the present, while the past lies in the lower layers.

Since the structure of pollen grains consists of durable polymers and has a distinct shape for each plant, it can be counted and distinguished in different sediment samples. Therefore, it allows scientists to reconstruct the scene that was in that region, and to know the changes that affected it over time.

Therefore, if we assume that a third or half of the population of Europe died during the plague, we would expect a significant decrease in the cultivated areas in the Middle Ages. Therefore, scientists used advanced statistical techniques to test the validity of this hypothesis in different regions of the continent.

Black plague environment
Indeed, scientists have discovered that the human race declined dramatically in parts of Europe after the arrival of the Black Plague; Evidence of this was seen in southern Sweden, central Italy and Greece. In contrast, no evidence of human population decline has been seen in regions such as Catalonia or the Czech Republic.

Labor-intensive agriculture has also increased in other countries, such as Poland, the Baltic states and central Spain; The expansion of the agricultural area continued without interruption throughout the late Middle Ages (1225 to 1500 AD). Hence, the death rate was not universal, and the Black Plague was not a global catastrophe.

This new account of the Black Plague as a local disaster fits with what we know about how plague spread between people and in rodents and fleas; Plague is a disease of wild rodents and fleas. Humans are considered occasional hosts, as they are not able to tolerate the disease for long.

The demographic impact of the black plague
Since the early 1900s, historians have focused on rats and their fleas in their explanation of how it was transmitted to humans, and have speculated that it behaves similarly in many places.

Although how it is transmitted from rodents to humans has been and continues to be studied, we know that its spread in human societies occurs through several ways, and humans are most often infected with flea bites. Once transmitted to humans, human behavior—as well as living conditions, lifestyle, and the local environment—affects the plague's ability to spread. So, societies respond differently to plague, so we should not expect plague to always spread in the same way.

Hence, this new account of the Black Plague prompts us to rethink how it spread, how it affected about 75 to 90% of Europeans who were living in the countryside, their lifestyle and their movements in the course of the epidemic, and what factors helped the spread and transmission of rodents.

The discovery that there was such an astonishing local diversity of the aftermath of the Black Plague leads us to be cautious as we make quick generalizations about how it spread and the extent of the impact of one of history's most famous epidemics.
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