While medical researchers and doctors continue their battle against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a group of scientists have turned their attention towards a certain infamous plague epidemic that ravaged the Mediterranean during the 6th century – the Plague of Justinian.
According to phys.org, researchers Lauren White and Lee Mordechai of the University of Maryland's National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) have challenged the assumption that the plague in question wiped out nearly half of the population of the Eastern Roman Empire, using the "novel mathematical models" they've developed to re-examine the sources from that time.
"This is the first time, to our knowledge, that a robust mathematical modeling approach has been used to investigate the Justinianic Plague," said White, lead author of the study. "Given that there is very little quantitative information in the primary sources for the Justinianic Plague, this was an exciting opportunity to think creatively about how we could combine present-day knowledge of plague's etiology with descriptions from the historical texts."
The researchers also question the existing assumption that the plague affected all areas of the Mediterranean in the same way, with White and Mordechai arguing that the diversity of factors like climate and population density in different corners of the empire would've made such scenario rather unlikely.
"Our results strongly suggest that the effects of the Justinianic Plague varied considerably between different urban areas in late antiquity," Mordechai remarked. "This paper is part of a series of publications in recent years that casts doubt on the traditional interpretation of plague using new methodologies. It's an exciting time to do this kind of interdisciplinary research!"
The study, titled "Modeling the Justinianic Plague: Comparing hypothesized transmission routes", was published in PLOS One scientific journal.