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Concept: Middle Ages


Links between childhood residential mobility and multiple adverse outcomes through to maturity, and effect modification of these associations by familial SES, are incompletely understood.

Concepts: Middle Ages, Late Antiquity, Dark Ages


The Black Death, originating in Asia, arrived in the Mediterranean harbors of Europe in 1347 CE, via the land and sea trade routes of the ancient Silk Road system. This epidemic marked the start of the second plague pandemic, which lasted in Europe until the early 19th century. This pandemic is generally understood as the consequence of a singular introduction of Yersinia pestis, after which the disease established itself in European rodents over four centuries. To locate these putative plague reservoirs, we studied the climate fluctuations that preceded regional plague epidemics, based on a dataset of 7,711 georeferenced historical plague outbreaks and 15 annually resolved tree-ring records from Europe and Asia. We provide evidence for repeated climate-driven reintroductions of the bacterium into European harbors from reservoirs in Asia, with a delay of 15 ± 1 y. Our analysis finds no support for the existence of permanent plague reservoirs in medieval Europe.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Middle Ages, Europe, Pandemic, Italy, Yersinia pestis, Black Death, Silk Road


During the Middle Ages, the partition of the cadaver of the elite members was a current practice, with highly technical treatment given to symbolic organs such as the heart. Considered mostly from a theoretical point of view, this notion of dilaceratio corporis has never been biologically explored. To assess the exact kind of embalming reserved to the heart, we performed a full biomedical analysis of the mummified heart of the English King Richard I (1199 A.D.). Here we show among other aspects, that the organ has been embalmed using substances inspired by Biblical texts and practical necessities of desiccation. We found that the heart was deposed in linen, associated with myrtle, daisy, mint, frankincense, creosote, mercury and, possibly, lime. Furthermore, the goal of using such preservation materials was to allow long-term conservation of the tissues, and good-smelling similar to the one of the Christ (comparable to the odor of sanctity).

Concepts: Middle Ages, Organ, Embalming, Cyprus, Richard I of England, Henry II of England, John of England, Henry the Young King


The role of breakfast as an essential part of an healthy diet has been only recently promoted even if breakfast practices were known since the Middle Age. The growing scientific evidences on this topic are extremely sector-based nevertheless breakfast could be regarded from different point of views and from different expertises. This approach, that take into account history, sociology, anthropology, medicine, psychology and pedagogy, is useful to better understand the value of this meal in our culture. The aim of this paper was to analyse breakfast-related issues based on a multidisciplinary approach with input by specialists from different fields of learning.

Concepts: Psychology, Nutrition, Middle Ages, Sociology, Culture, Philosophy, Anthropology, Social sciences


Psychosocial stress is a suggested risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). The relationship of stress resilience in adolescence with subsequent CHD risk is underinvestigated, so our objective was to assess this and investigate the possible mediating role of physical fitness.

Concepts: Heart, Middle Ages, Heart disease, Mediation


The Late Pleistocene Campanian Ignimbrite (CI) super-eruption (Southern Italy) is the largest known volcanic event in the Mediterranean area. The CI tephra is widely dispersed through western Eurasia and occurs in close stratigraphic association with significant palaeoclimatic and Palaeolithic cultural events. Here we present new high-precision (14)C (34.29 ± 0.09 (14)C kyr BP, 1σ) and (40)Ar/(39)Ar (39.85 ± 0.14 ka, 95% confidence level) dating results for the age of the CI eruption, which substantially improve upon or augment previous age determinations and permit fuller exploitation of the chronological potential of the CI tephra marker. These results provide a robust pair of (14)C and (40)Ar/(39)Ar ages for refining both the radiocarbon calibration curve and the Late Pleistocene time-scale at ca. 40 ka. In addition, these new age constraints provide compelling chronological evidence for the significance of the combined influence of the CI eruption and Heinrich Event 4 on European climate and potentially evolutionary processes of the Early Upper Palaeolithic.

Concepts: Middle Ages, Mediterranean Sea, Europe, Turkey, Western culture, Pleistocene, Paleolithic, Radiocarbon dating


Symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition commonly associated with increased pain, disability, and functional limitations. Given the poor correspondence between radiographic evidence and clinical pain, central sensitization has been implicated as a potential mechanism underlying pain facilitation in knee OA. Sex may be a moderator of centrally-mediated changes in knee OA pain; however, few studies have systematically assessed this. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine differences in peripheral and central sensitization in men and women with symptomatic knee OA, as well as to determine whether these differences vary across age (middle-age vs. older-age).

Concepts: Male, Middle Ages, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Osteoarthritis, Sex, Cultural studies, Sensitization


Modern European genetic structure demonstrates strong correlations with geography, while genetic analysis of prehistoric humans has indicated at least two major waves of immigration from outside the continent during periods of cultural change. However, population-level genome data that could shed light on the demographic processes occurring during the intervening periods have been absent. Therefore, we generated genomic data from 41 individuals dating mostly to the late 5th/early 6th century AD from present-day Bavaria in southern Germany, including 11 whole genomes (mean depth 5.56×). In addition we developed a capture array to sequence neutral regions spanning a total of 5 Mb and 486 functional polymorphic sites to high depth (mean 72×) in all individuals. Our data indicate that while men generally had ancestry that closely resembles modern northern and central Europeans, women exhibit a very high genetic heterogeneity; this includes signals of genetic ancestry ranging from western Europe to East Asia. Particularly striking are women with artificial skull deformations; the analysis of their collective genetic ancestry suggests an origin in southeastern Europe. In addition, functional variants indicate that they also differed in visible characteristics. This example of female-biased migration indicates that complex demographic processes during the Early Medieval period may have contributed in an unexpected way to shape the modern European genetic landscape. Examination of the panel of functional loci also revealed that many alleles associated with recent positive selection were already at modern-like frequencies in European populations ∼1,500 years ago.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Genome, Middle Ages, Europe, Asia, Spain, Western Europe


Mice and humans with growth hormone receptor/IGF-1 deficiencies display major reductions in age-related diseases. Because protein restriction reduces GHR-IGF-1 activity, we examined links between protein intake and mortality. Respondents aged 50-65 reporting high protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk during the following 18 years. These associations were either abolished or attenuated if the proteins were plant derived. Conversely, high protein intake was associated with reduced cancer and overall mortality in respondents over 65, but a 5-fold increase in diabetes mortality across all ages. Mouse studies confirmed the effect of high protein intake and GHR-IGF-1 signaling on the incidence and progression of breast and melanoma tumors, but also the detrimental effects of a low protein diet in the very old. These results suggest that low protein intake during middle age followed by moderate to high protein consumption in old adults may optimize healthspan and longevity.

Concepts: Protein, Metabolism, Nutrition, Death, Hormone, Middle Ages, Growth hormone, Diet


The medieval Black Death (c. 1347-1351) was one of the most devastating epidemics in human history. It killed tens of millions of Europeans, and recent analyses have shown that the disease targeted elderly adults and individuals who had been previously exposed to physiological stressors. Following the epidemic, there were improvements in standards of living, particularly in dietary quality for all socioeconomic strata. This study investigates whether the combination of the selective mortality of the Black Death and post-epidemic improvements in standards of living had detectable effects on survival and mortality in London. Samples are drawn from several pre- and post-Black Death London cemeteries. The pre-Black Death sample comes from the Guildhall Yard (n = 75) and St. Nicholas Shambles (n = 246) cemeteries, which date to the 11th-12th centuries, and from two phases within the St. Mary Spital cemetery, which date to between 1120-1300 (n = 143). The St. Mary Graces cemetery (n = 133) was in use from 1350-1538 and thus represents post-epidemic demographic conditions. By applying Kaplan-Meier analysis and the Gompertz hazard model to transition analysis age estimates, and controlling for changes in birth rates, this study examines differences in survivorship and mortality risk between the pre- and post-Black Death populations of London. The results indicate that there are significant differences in survival and mortality risk, but not birth rates, between the two time periods, which suggest improvements in health following the Black Death, despite repeated outbreaks of plague in the centuries after the Black Death.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Death, Demography, Middle Ages, Pandemic, Black Death, London, Black metal