Bacterial Cartography and Historiography of Plague
My doctoral research focuses on mapping historical routes of plague by reconstructing ancient genomes of the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis. There is tremendous variation in the proposed routes of historical plague in Europe during the Late Middle Ages (14th – 16th century) and the Early Modern Period (16th-18th century). This variation can be attributed in part to the sparseness and ambiguity of mortality records available for analysis. I aim to address these limitations by incorporating the genetic information of the plague pathogen to trace its progression and evolution across Europe.
The primary focus of my dissertation is the assembly of ancient genomes of Y. pestis extracted from archaeological plague victims from sites across Europe including: Greece, Italy, England, Denmark, Germany, and France. I will examine and integrate various lines of evidence used in reconstructing historic disease patterns such as: mortality archives, historical trade routes, environmental data, and ancient DNA. Through this research, I hope to critically examine the historiography of plague and contribute novel genetic evidence to further our understanding of the virulence and spread of plague in the past.