Saturday 16 May 2020

Coronavirus watch: was this Britain's first major epidemic?

Over the centuries after Stonehenge was built, the descendants of the people who created it largely disappeared from Britain. They were farmers of Mediterranean appearance with dark hair and olive skin. 

The great stone circle was finished about 2500 BC, but examination of 150 ancient skeletons from all over the country suggests that over the next 500 years, our Mediterranean-type ancestors had dwindled to about 10 per cent of the population.

They were replaced by the 'Beaker people' who seem to have originated in Central Europe. In the absence of any evidence of a major conflict, some archaeologists suggest that they brought with them a disease or diseases to which the native people had no resistance. Some have even suggested it might have been bubonic plague, which returned with such devastating effect during the 300 years or so from 1348.  (See my posts of  3 and 25 April.)

If the theory is right, it would mirror what happened to the Aztecs, the Incas and the Maya, who were conquered not so much by Spanish conquistadors as by the smallpox and other diseases they brought with them.

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