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Chapter Summary

The relationship between the rat plague epizootic and human plague epidemic in India must have been very much the same as in historical plague epidemics, if they were indeed epidemics of bubonic plague. In recent decades an important new source on the history of rats has appeared namely zoo-archaeology or more accurately archaeological zoo-osteology, the study of animal bones found in archaeological excavations. The advocates of alternative theories contrast the paucity or lack of evidence of dead rats in historical plague epidemics with assertions to the effect that this was a conspicuous feature of modern epidemics of bubonic plague. A sprinkling of dead plague rats was found in India and China. In Europe, rat bones older than ca. 300 years must be remains of the black rat. The main conditions of source-criticism and the significance of finds of rat bones must also be assessed in a historical perspective.

Keywords: brown rat; bubonic plague; zoo-archaeology



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