Truck loaded with plague victims in Elliant drawn by a woman with tattered clothes. Moynet lithograph based on Duveau’s Collections.

The Black Death: the Plague that Sowed Terror and Death in Medieval Europe - Part 1

(Read the article on one page)

Transmission and Spread of the Bubonic Plague

All indications suggest that the bubonic plague was transmitted via boats and caravans containing infected people, rats, and fleas. Large commercial cities were the main destinations and thus the centers of spreading the plague through waterways and popular land routes. With the data available today we know that the spread by sea could exceed 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) per day, while on land ranging between 0.3- 1.2 miles (0.5 -2 kilometers) a day.

Although many fled to the countryside, the fact was that cities were safer because, as has been noted, the progression of infectious diseases is slower in nuclei with higher density of population. Such escapes just led to greater spread of the disease, not freedom from its grasp.

As to the number of deaths caused by the bubonic plague in Europe, we can now say that the mortality rate for the population was likely close to 60%.

In the Iberian Peninsula, for example, the data indicates that the population fell from 6 million to 2.5 million. In southern France records confirm that died between 55% -70% of notaries. These percentages were similar to death rates for members of the English clergy. Meanwhile, in Tuscany almost 60% of the population died of the plague, Florence and its over 90,000 inhabitants were cut down to just 60,000. In absolute terms, of the 80,000,000 people who inhabited Europe in 1346, there were only 30 million left just seven years later, in 1353.

Of the 80,000,000 people who inhabited Europe in 1346, only 30 million remained in 1353 because of the plague."Dance Macabre" by Michael Wolgemut.

Of the 80,000,000 people who inhabited Europe in 1346, only 30 million remained in 1353 because of the plague."Dance Macabre" by Michael Wolgemut. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Featured image: Truck loaded with plague victims in Elliant drawn by a woman with tattered clothes. Moynet lithograph based on Duveau’s Collections. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Coming next in Part 2: The Deadly Bacteria behind the Bubonic Plague

Author: Mariló TA

This article was first published in Spanish at and has been translated with permission.


California investigates possible second case of plague visited Yosemite. CNN in Spanish.

National Geographic - The Black Death, the most mortifying epidemic.

What caused the Black Death in Europe? BBC - 24/02/2015

Medical Encyclopedia. Death.

Stories of our history. The Black Death.



Has any research shown where the Mongols came  into contact with the disease?

Apparently Poland was relatively isolated: "... While heavily hit regions such as the Mediterranean coast were densely interlinked with trade, the same was generally not true of Poland. ..."
And: "...In addition to Poland's relatively sparse population, a key factor is that King Casimir the Great wisely quarantined the Polish borders. ..."

That would make sense. In school system they taught us the mongols launched infected bodies into Genoa trade centers on black sea and it spread back to italy. So the flees not attracted to horses surprised me.

Another question
How did Poland not get infected? Quarantining the borders seems impossible back then. I know it was not very populous but Russia and Scandinava were not either so exactly how did they stay safe.

The fact that the plague spread to Europe was apparently due to gerbils spreading big time because of a temporarily changing climate and trade between Asia and Europe both by land and ship. Actually what I remember reading yesterday somewhere is that the Mongols wheren't hit by the plague that much because there were so many horses in their vicinity.

How would the flees travel with the mongols with their horsemen army?


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Photo of Zecharia Sitchin (left)(CC0)Akkadian cylinder seal dating to circa 2300 BC depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, and Enki, three members of the Anunnaki.(right)
In a previous 2-part article (1), the authors wrote about the faulty associations of the Sumerian deities known as the Anunnaki as they are portrayed in the books, television series, and other media, which promotes Ancient Astronaut Theory (hereafter “A.A.T.”).

Ancient Technology

Roman glass (not the legendary flexible glass). Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.
Imagine a glass you can bend and then watch it return to its original form. A glass that you drop but it doesn’t break. Stories say that an ancient Roman glassmaker had the technology to create a flexible glass, ‘vitrium flexile’, but a certain emperor decided the invention should not be.

Ancient Places

2,000-Year-Old Carving and 16th Century Manuscript Reveal Some Maya Came from Across the Sea
The Popol Vuh, a corpus of mythological and historical narratives according to the Quiché-Maya people, and Izapa Stela 5, a carved stela found at the ancient Mesoamerican site of Izapa in Mexico, provide a fascinating insight into Mexican history. In fact, together, they may reveal that some of the ancestors of the Quiché-Maya came from across the sea.


Hopewell mounds from the Mound City Group in Ohio. Representative image
During the Early Woodland Period (1000—200 BC), the Adena people constructed extensive burial mounds and earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Many of the skeletal remains found in these mounds by early antiquarians and 20th-Century archaeologists were of powerfully-built individuals reaching between 6.5 and eight feet in height (198 cm – 244 cm).

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article