The Burial Pit as Bio-Historical Archive

“Recent historical research on the bubonic plague has been heavily impacted by bio-historical data. Ancient DNA, the technology to trace bacteria in human remains, has turned burial grounds from places reminiscent of epidemic disasters into resourceful bio-historical archives. Mobilizing the tools of retrospective diagnostics the burial pit has become a popular site to apply science to the writing of historical narratives of the plague. This paper will interrogate the methodological underpinnings of the hereby-intended ‘validation’ of history through science. Addressing the burial pit as a bio-historical archive allows for a critical evaluation of the making of plague history and plague biology as an entangled endeavour.”

Lukas Engelmann.

Presented at Corpses, Burials and Infection, CRASSH, University of Cambridge, 4-5 December 2015.

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