Tracing the Black Death in Spain's Mallorca

Archaeologist will extract DNA for analysis from corpses buried in the Bellpuig estate. CREDIT: Consell de Mallorca.

THIS year marks 200 years since the most devastating pandemic took place in the history of Mallorca, Spain.
The bubonic plague, locally known as the ‘Plague of Llevant’ claimed the lives of 2,434 residents from Son Servera, Artà, Capdepera and Sant Llorenç in 1820.
A multidisciplinary team, led by microbiologist Toni Bennàssar and Archaeologist Francisca Cardona, will now try to find the strain of the disease by examining the Bellpuig estate, where it is believed that some 1,000 victims were laid to rest.
It is hoped that a selection of corpses will be exhumed, where DNA samples will then be extracted and analysed using the genetic qPCR technique (real-time polymerase chain reaction) to reconstruct the microorganism linked to the epidemic and examine its variations.
The goal of the scientific study is to establish the evolution of the strain that theoretically resulted in the plague and shed light on its possible origin. At present, the most accepted theory is that the plague reached the coast of Son Servera through a ship travelling from Tangier in Morocco.

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Written by

Isha Sesay