Research from skeletons has led to a new idea that the Black Death was spread human to human via coughs and sneezes. Only this could explain the rapid spread and huge death toll, not bacteria directly from fleas (bubonic). As we often find, perhaps the explanation is more complicated than that.
Archaeologists and forensic scientists who have examined 25 skeletons unearthed in the Clerkenwell area of London a year ago believe they have uncovered the truth about the nature of the Black Death that ravaged Britain and Europe in the mid-14th century.
Analysis of the bodies and of wills registered in London at the time has cast doubt on “facts” that every schoolchild has learned for decades: that the epidemic was caused by a highly contagious strain spread by the fleas on rats.
There is no mention in this piece that this work has been published and critiqued. It will be part of a new documentary to air on British TV.
Additional evidence that this was not just pest-related is that the skeletons shows generally poor overall health from other causes in those that died – rickets, anaemia, bad teeth and childhood malnutrition.
Pneumonic plague is a real thing. Today, antibiotics prevent the rapid spread of such a fast-spreading disease. Therefore, this finding does not seem out of line from what we know. It may just mean that we adjust the explanation for the the rapid spread due to the contagious nature and the poor living conditions of the time.