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Black Death devastated Europe in the 14th century but scientists have now found the bacteria that caused it has been around for thousands of years.
Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague, has been found in the remains of a 20-year-old Stone Age woman who died 4,900 years ago in southern Sweden.
Scientists - Farmers - Years - 'Black - Death
Scientists now believe that farmers that lived 4,500 years ago may have also been killed by the 'Black Death' after it spread to the provinces from rapidly growing civilisations.
This is the oldest trace of the deadly bacteria ever found and scientists say it could rewrite the history of Neolithic Europeans.
Dawn - Bronze - Age - Trading - Goods
They say the dawn of the Bronze Age and trading of excess goods may have facilitated the the spread of the plague to different regions and into Europe.
Previously it was believed invaders from Asia brought plague with them but the new findings suggest a breakout occurred far before these colonists arrived.
Team - French - Swedish - Danish - Researchers
A team of French, Swedish and Danish researchers identified a new strain of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague.
Senior author Associate Professor Simon Rasmussen, at the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen, explained: 'Plague is maybe one of the deadliest bacteria that has ever existed for humans.
Word - 'plague - Infection - Y - Pestis
'And if you think of the word 'plague,' it can mean this infection by Y. pestis, but because of the trauma plague has caused in our history, it's also come to refer more generally to any epidemic.
'The kind of analyses we do here let us go back through time and look at how this pathogen that's had such a huge effect on us evolved.'
Evolution - Plague - Data - Humans - Plague
The evolution of the plague was mapped through genetic data from ancient humans, and sequencing modern plague strains.
Genes that make the pneumonic plague deadly were found in the Swedish remains.
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