The plague appeared in Europe in the stone age, say genetics

© Natalia Silencer one of the first victims of the plague from the Russian Altai, Parking afanasevoThe plague appeared in Europe in the stone age, say genetics© Natalia Shishlina

. The plague Bacillus that caused the famous plague epidemics in antiquity and the middle ages appeared in Europe in the stone age where she came along with the first farmers in Asia and other corners of the Earth, say scientists in an article published in the journal Current Biology.

«The threat of plague could be one reason why the human population rapidly became more mobile in the late stone and early bronze age. It is possible that the great migration of the peoples of that time were associated with the fact that people simply fled from the plague, or the fact that the representatives of the steppe ethnic groups had a slightly different immune system, helping them to better tolerate the infection,» says Johannes Kruse (Johannes Krause) from the Institute for the study of human history in Jena (Germany).

Krause known as «the necromancer»-paleogenetic, and his colleagues have several years of work to restore the history of the largest in the history of Europe of the epidemic – the so-called «black death» caused by the plague Bacillus, Yersinia pestis. In 2011, the group Krause recovered a genome of this bacteria, and later found a mutation that turned a harmless soil bacterium in «the scourge of God» of the 14th century.

Relatively recently, in February 2016, Krause and his colleagues made an extremely unexpected discovery – by studying the bones of victims of the outbreak of plague in Marseille in the 18th century, they found that the epidemic was caused by the same strain of Yersinia pestis that caused the black death. It was a very big surprise scientists, as they believed that this kind of microbe disappeared, replaced by a less contagious and deadly strains of Yersinia pestis.

Trying to understand how this could have happened a year ago, the team Krause began looking for traces of the plague in different parts of Europe and Asia, and found traces of the plague several times into Europe from Asia, and go back to their «home», traveling in China through the current territory of Russia and then moving back.

These discoveries, as the scientist says, got him thinking about the role that the plague could play in the history of human evolution and colonization of Land, and also about how long it accompanies our species. To answer this question Krause and his colleagues gathered a vast collection of remains of stone age people who lived on the territory of Russia, Germany, the Balkans and Baltic States, and tried to find in them the fragments of DNA of Yersinia pestis.

Much to the surprise of geneticists, the plague Bacillus that caused the epidemic of «black death», was present in Europe long before the time of its intended outcome from the steppes of Mongolia and China, where, as previously thought by scientists, is her birthplace. This is supported by the fact that fragments of DNA of this bacterium was found inside the bones of the five ancient inhabitants of Europe, one of which lived near Rasshevatskaya village in the Stavropol region and three in the Baltic States.

Judging by about the same small set of mutations in the «resurrected» DNA of all five bacteria were close relatives of each other and were «cousins» of the medieval version of the germ that gave rise to all the major plague epidemics.

Their carriers, according to Krause, was the first Indo-Europeans, the ancestors of the first modern inhabitants of Europe, who lived in Russia and Ukraine, on the territory of the steppes of the Caspian sea and the black sea. They entered the territory of Europe approximately 5 thousand years ago and brought, apparently, not only new technological know-how and the genes associated with digestion of milk, but also the first major plague epidemic.

After about 500 years, as demonstrated by genetic analysis of plague victims from Asia, the bacterium started to travel back, moving across the steppes of the Caspian region and the future of Kazakhstan in the direction of Central Asia. Both, according to a scientist confirms his theory that plague was a «companion» of humanity for nearly all time of existence of civilization.