Malnutrition and infections,
less noble but more real,
damage to the joints and spines
from labor in the fields.
One sad story written down
in bones and DNA –
infection struck an unborn boy,
took mom and child away.
A slightly different strain
than modern distribution.
Eight hundred years is a long time
in microbe evolution.
What poems are writ to infants lost?
Who sings of nameless death?
Laid in a grave, our human tale
Of flesh and bone and breath.
By Kate Rauner
Thanks to wisc.edu for this study, from a Byzantine graveyard, in the journal eLife (Jan. 10, 2017). A calcified nodule on a woman’s skeleton contained not only her DNA and that of the microbes that killed her, but the only trace of her male fetus’s existence.
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