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Concept: Middle Ages


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 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


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


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


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


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 collapse of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) stocks throughout North-Western Europe is generally ascribed to large-scale river regulation, water pollution and over-fishing in the 19(th) and 20(th) century. However, other causes have rarely been quantified, especially those acting before the 19(th) century. By analysing historical fishery, market and tax statistics, independently confirmed by archaeozoological records, we demonstrate that populations declined by up to 90% during the transitional period between the Early Middle Ages (c. 450-900 AD) and Early Modern Times (c. 1600 AD). These dramatic declines coincided with improvements in watermill technology and their geographical expansion across Europe. Our extrapolations suggest that historical Atlantic salmon runs must have once been very abundant indeed. The historical perspective presented here contributes to a better understanding of the primary factors that led to major declines in salmon populations. Such understanding provides an essential basis for the effective ecological rehabilitation of freshwater ecosystems.

Concepts: Middle Ages, Europe, Salmon, Modern history, Atlantic salmon, Salmo, Renaissance, Age of Discovery


The origin of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) denotes the transition from a highly persistent mode of stone toolmaking, the Acheulean, to a period of increasing technological innovation and cultural indicators associated with the evolution ofHomo sapiensHere we use40Ar/39Ar and U-series dating to calibrate the chronology of Acheulean- and early MSA-rich sedimentary deposits in the Olorgesailie Basin, South Kenya Rift. We establish the age of late Acheulean tool assemblages from 615 to 499 ka, after which a large technological and faunal transition occurred, with definitive MSA lacking Acheulean elements beginning most likely by ~320 ka, but at least by 305 ka. These results establish the currently oldest repository of MSA in eastern Africa.

Concepts: Africa, Middle Ages, Innovation, Kenya, Nairobi, Human evolution, Stone Age, East Africa