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Disaster recovery: new archaeological evidence for the long-term impact of the ‘calamitous’ fourteenth century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2016

Carenza Lewis*
Affiliation:
School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln LN6 7TS, UK (Email: clewis@lincoln.ac.uk)

Abstract

The Black Death swept across Europe and Asia in the fourteenth century, killing millions and devastating communities. Recent re-evaluations of source data, the discovery of new plague cemeteries and advances in genotyping have caused scholars to reconsider the extent of the devastation and to revise estimated mortality rates upwards. But what was the true impact of this catastrophic episode? Systematic test-pitting can reveal changes in medieval demography that can be both quantified and mapped at a range of scales. Comparing the relative amounts of high medieval (copious) to late medieval (much scarcer) pottery suggests that the pottery-using population across eastern England was around 45% lower in the centuries after the Black Death than before, and such comparison identifies exactly where this contraction was the most and least severely felt.

Type
Research
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2016 

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