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Emergence and Spread of Basal Lineages of Yersinia pestis during the Neolithic Decline

Journal article
Authors Nicolas Rascovan
Karl-Göran Sjögren
Kristian Kristiansen
Rasmus Nielsen
Eske Willerslev
Christelle Desnues
Simon Rasmussen
Published in Cell
Volume 176
Issue 1
Pages 295-305
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Pages 295-305
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018...
Keywords Plague, Yersinia Pestis, Neolithic, Pandemic
Subject categories Bacteriology, Archaeology, Non-European, Archaeology, North European

Abstract

Between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, many Neolithic societies declined throughout western Eurasia due to a combination of factors that are still largely debated. Here, we report the discovery and genome reconstruction of Yersinia pestis, the etiological agent of plague, in Neolithic farmers in Sweden, pre-dating and basal to all modern and ancient known strains of this pathogen. We investigated the history of this strain by combining phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses of the bacterial genome, detailed archaeological information, and genomic analyses from infected individuals and hundreds of ancient human samples across Eurasia. These analyses revealed that multiple and independent lineages of Y. pestis branched and expanded across Eurasia during the Neolithic decline, spreading most likely through early trade networks rather than massive human migrations. Our results are consistent with the existence of a prehistoric plague pandemic that likely contributed to the decay of Neolithic populations in Europe.

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Utskriftsdatum: 2019-09-23