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January 28 2014

Black Death may have scuppered Roman Empire


What caused the fall of the Roman Empire? A devastating plague that struck during the reign of Emperor Justinian in 541 AD, killing a quarter of the population, seems to have landed the final blow, but the identity of the infection was a mystery.

Now sequencing of DNA taken from two skeletons buried in Bavaria, Germany, in the 6th century has uncovered the complete genome of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria also blamed for the Black Death that struck Europe in 1348.

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