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  • How Gerbils Killed Millions February 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    How Gerbils Killed Millions

    One of the most exciting areas of plague research in the last year has been the question of what transmitted the Black Death from central Asia into the distant but well populated margins of Euro-Asia in the fourteenth century. The answer which has been patly trotted out for over a hundred years now is that a rat […]

    Eaten by Rats? August 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Eaten by Rats?

    ***Dedicated to Chris C*** A short post to ask a very simple question: can rats kill homo sapiens? Of course, given the bubonic plague the answer is yes. But what about in a more simple and straightforward fashion. Can a big enough group of rats attack and overpower a weak enough human being or are […]

    A Magpie Parliament? February 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Magpie Parliament?

    ***Dedicated to Ed*** Magpies are often seen in small groups and this has had a predictable reflex in folklore where there is a charming rhyme (with some regional variations) that children still learn in the UK: One [magpie] for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy… As to bigger groups […]

    Medieval and Ancient Rats January 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Medieval and Ancient Rats

    One of the mysteries of the Black Death in the Middle Ages is how the victims never – with one curious Scandinavian exception – cottoned on to the fact that rodents, particularly rats were disease bearers. In some cases there were infestations of rats before the disease struck and many rats also died, which should […]

    A Fifteenth-Century Interest in Scandinavian Plague Rats July 15, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Fifteenth-Century Interest in Scandinavian Plague Rats

                              The Bubonic plague was around a long time before, in 1897, scientists finally discovered what caused the illness: disease-carrying fleas on the backs of rats. Then having taken over five hundred years to work out the plague in scientific terms: these same genius […]