Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Bible and Pterosaurs

Archaeological and Linguistic Studies of
Jurassic Animals that Lived Recently

by John Goertzen,
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary
M.S., Rutgers University

ABSTRACT: There is an increasing amount of archaeological and linguistic evidence that pterosaurs (flying reptiles) were mentioned by several authors of Scripture. This introductory article will deal with some of those biblical words and what I've learned about them from word studies and archaeology. The scientific basis for this study has been established by articles for peer-reviewed scientific publications for both secular and creation groups. The spiritual symbolism for these animals and cultural relevance during the biblical era will also be looked at. Finally, some implications from this knowledge will be examined.


There are interesting archaeological, grammatical, cultural and spiritual aspects of the biblical treatment of pterosaurs that this article will begin to examine. The scientific basis is established by unmistakable artifacts that depict morphological details of the animals that demonstrate that the ancients observed pterosaurs.

Scripture and other reliable accounts of ancient authors like Josephus shed additional light on the scientific knowledge of these now extinct animals. Those accounts lead to grammatical questions regarding the ancient vocabulary that will need additional study. However, enough is known to be fairly confident of the basic fact: flying reptiles were indeed mentioned by the writers of Scripture.

Archaeological knowledge, like grammatical knowledge, is beginning to accumulate. Already, however, more than enough, including seal and bowl inscriptions, is available to understand the cultural phenomenon of pterosaurs during Isaiah's prophecy including the political connection with Egypt, and that geographically intermediate nation, Philistia.

The spiritual and symbolic knowledge of pterosaurs is found primarily from the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when speaking with Nicodemus (Jn. 3:14). Isaiah's glimmer of the typology that was to come later (Is. 14:29) has been recognized by Jewish and early Christian scholars.

Strong evidence has been found that pterosaurs lived during biblical times in the middle east. Moreover the Bible itself mentions these animals at least a half-dozen times. Though maintained by biblical scholars for more than two Millennia, until (and including) the NASB and NRSV translations, the popular NIV has abandoned Isaiah's two allusions of these colorful creatures. Of course the reason for that is because mainstream science has maintained for more than a century that pterosaurs (i.e. flying reptiles) have been extinct for tens of millions of years and that no person ever saw them.

A Scientific Perspective

Recent studies of ancient Egyptian (and other) artifacts have revealed that they must have observed at least several pterosaur species now known from the fossil record because of the morphological characteristics that were depicted. Among these species are the: Pteranodon ingens, Quetzalcoatlus, Ornithoceras, Rhamphorhynchus, as well as the Scaphognathus crassirostris and Dimorphodon macronyx. Moreover the depictions of undetermined species of Rhamphorhynchoid (long tailed) pterosaurs with tail vanes demands that they observed pterosaurs since they wouldn't depict reptiles with that feature if they hadn't actually observed a living pterosaur.

A good number of the most reliable ancient historians attest the existence of flying reptiles (e.g. Herodotus, Josephus, Aelian, Mela, Ammianus, Esarhaddon's inscription, anonymous 4'th century Coptic monks, the 13'th century Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa and dozens more could be cited). The four leading biologists of the Renaissance similarly maintained the existence of such animals. Their names and countries were Ulysses Aldrovandi, Italy; Conrad Gesner, Switzerland; Edward Topsell, England; and Pierre Belon, France.

During the 16'th century, Belon observed and provided a sketch of a flying reptile that can be strongly identified as the Dimorphodon macronyx species from the Rhamphorhynchoidea sub-order., Aldrovandi heard a description of and sketched a Scaphognathus., It is less accurate than Belon's Dimorphodon, yet remarkable for a scientist who had not actually seen the specimen. Another Italian taxonomist, Meier, had a Scaphognathus specimen in his museum. Samuel Bochart (17th century), in the most outstanding study of biblical reptiles ever accomplished, likewise maintained the existence of flying reptiles. However, the animals became extinct about then and within a century scientists were saying that they never had existed. The Swiss scientist Jacob Scheuchzer would claim that as well as the English naturalist Thomas Browne.

Hebrew and Greek Word Study

The BDB lexicon acknowledges the clear mention by Isaiah of "flying serpents," but in keeping with their disbelief in biblical inerrancy, calls the animals fanciful. However, no less of an authority than E.J. Young maintained the real existence of such animals, Young being aware of some of the ancient pagan writers as well as Isaiah. In recent years P. J. Wiseman, wrongly, claimed there was no evidence for the existence of flying reptiles from the middle east in biblical times. That led the authors of TWOT to postulate a "metaphorical" use of the Hebrew word m'opheph Jpvfm that always indicates literal flying when used with any other animal (about 20x).

That Hebrew word, m'opheph Jpvfm, is a polal participle; a form used only by Isaiah when describing the reptilian saraph (14:29 and 30:6). The polal indicates an intensive of the root pvf ooph that means to fly or flutter. BDB, then, interprets it as meaning to "fly about, to and fro." The imperfect form of the polal is found in Gen. 1:20, "flying creatures that flutter to and fro" and Is. 6:2 "seraphim (the same word as the reptiles here used for angelic creatures) that fly to and fro." The meaning may be best illustrated by a polal infinitive construct in Ez. 32:10 "when I cause my sword to fly to and fro" or "when I brandish my sword." The rapid back and forth movement of the sword (brandishing) illustrates the emphasis of the polal intensive.

The idea of TWOT then, that m'opheph Jpvfm could indicate a serpent's swift bite, will not work since a serpent's strike is not a back and forth motion. The word indicates an animal with swift back and forth motion, like the flying of a humming bird.

It appears that the word saraph JrW was forgotten by the reign of Hezekiah. After being used four times by Moses in the Pentateuch, it does not appear in Scripture again until Isaiah, about eight centuries later. Moreover those animals did not apparently exist in Judah; just in Arabia, the Sinai, and Egypt to the south.

That could explain the hapax legomenon of Nehushtan Ntwhn, apparently a compound word of nahash whn (serpent) and tan Nt (translated 'dragon' by the Septuagint, Vulgate, ASV, and KJV). That would be an apt description of a reptilian quadruped with a snake-looking appearance (according to the appearance of a rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur). The compound word idea appears linguistically and archaeologically more probable than the often repeated interpretation 'a thing of brass.'

The "brass" idea is propounded because of the Hebrew word for copper; nehoshet twhn. Though it is similar to Nehushtan, the final nun there appears inexplicable if the word is based on the other word for copper. However, there is no problem like that for the compound word theory stated above. TWOT recognizes the common derivation of nahash whn (serpent) and Nehushtan Ntwhn.

The Septuagint word that is used, vneesqan, would argue for the compound word Nehushtan Ntwhn and against the copper idea nehoshet twhn. The second word, 'tan,' is present with both the Hebrew and Greek versions and the an at the end does not match the copper word idea. The first portion of the compound word is a reasonable match for 'nahash.' There is no 'h' in Greek, though that sound is sometimes indicated at the beginning of a Greek word by a rough breathing mark. Also, all the vowels match 'nahash.' If the word was 'nehoshet' the second e should be an o.

Finally, the compound word idea for Nehushtan during Hezekiah's reign, is similar to the compound word used in the Pentateuch, saraph nahash. The only difference is the substitution of tan for saraph, a reason for which will be given later.

Isaiah then resurrected the word saraph JrW for the angelic creatures that he saw at God's throne (6:2). Later he would qualify the word with m'opheph Jpvfm when indicating mere animals (14:29 and 30:6) so the audience would know that flying reptiles were intended, not angelic beings (who are qualified by the word standing, o'mdim Mydmf, not flying Jpvfm).

Saraph JrW may be related to the cuneiform word for a "serpent;" siru. Archibald H. Sayce says that the Egyptian word seref means "flying serpent." An Egyptian origin for the word appears plausible since there is archaeological evidence and ancient accounts of the presence of flying reptiles there. Since the Israelites had lived there for many years, it is not surprising that they adopted the Egyptian name for them.

Currid says that the Egyptians revered the serpent for both the danger and protection it represented. An Egyptian coronation hymn, found in a Pyramid text, reads:

The doors of the horizon are opened, their bolts are slipped.

He (the king) comes to thee, O Red Crown; he comes to thee, O Fiery One (saraph).

and another hymn:

O Red Crown, O Inu, O Great One,

O Magician, O Fiery Snake! (saraph)

Let there be terror of me like the terror of thee.

Let there be fear of me like the fear of thee.

Let there be awe of me like the awe of thee.

The Hebrew word for burning is also saraph JrW. Scholars appear uncertain about whether the animals were named for the burning effect their poison produced or their bright color. There is support for both of those hypothesis. Certainly they were poisonous as indicated by both the Pentateuch and Isaiah. Esarhaddon tells us that he saw "yellow serpents that could fly" when traveling to fight against Tirhaka, king of Egypt and Nubia. Certainly, also, some pterosaurs had a deadly poisonous bite according to many ancient authors and the context of Isaiah's allusions. The angels, seraphim, that Isaiah saw, probably were quite bright. Therefore I am unable to determine whether the usage of the word saraph should be traced to the reptile's poisonous bite or, perhaps, its bright color.

Noth has theorized that the compound name saraph nahash whn JrW (a combination used in Numbers and Deuteronomy) was the designation of flying reptiles. The animal was not a saraph (griffin) and not a nahash (snake), it was kind of like a cross between them (pterosaur). Since there was probably no readily known word for that animal, a compound word was used based on the two other animals it was most like. Then throughout the Numbers pericope either of those two terms was used for the animals. Noth's conclusion that the bronze figure was a flying reptile is shared by Milgrom though he doesn't take the next step of concluding that the animals were pterosaurs.

I believe 'tan' was the word the Hebrews used later for griffins (which I think were formerly living animals based on the archaeological evidence). That could explain why the term nahash saraph became nahashtan many centuries later. Providing my reasons why the griffin was represented by the Hebrew word tan would be the subject of another article.

The Septuagint words for the Egyptian/Hebrew word saraph in Is. 14:29 are ofei" petamenoi (clearly words for a flying reptile) with no variants. There are four variant Septuagint words for the Is. 30:6 animals from Origen's Hexaplorum. O'. reads ekgona aspidwn, 'A. (Aquila) reads emprhsth"; and Q. (Theodotion) ek krufwn all contain a variant of petamenwn. That is a word that means "flying" and is often used of birds in the Greek TLG texts.

All of those variants indicate flying reptiles. aspidon (from O')is used of non-flying serpents and fairly often of flying reptiles, often with a qualifying word like petomenwn. The words emprhsta" (from 'A)and krufwn (from Q)are somewhat rare for reptiles in the TLG (Theasaurus Lingua Graecae).

The variant is basilisk from the S (Symmachi). According to the note in the Hexaplorum that is because of a misunderstanding of the Hebrew word for flying. Interestingly though, an ancient Greek writer, says that the equivalent Egyptian word, for the Greek basilisk, is ouraion; or uraeus with the last letter changed to Nu for the Greek accusative case.

In the middle ages the same word, basilisk, was used in Latin (basilic) for a flying reptile with a head crest. It could be that the Greek word basilisk indicated the 'King of the serpents' and had a 'crown' (or head crest) like a basileu" (the Greek word for King).

The outstanding naturalist, Prosper Alpin (c. 1600), explicitly tells of the basilic being a flying serpent with a head crest being an animal living in Ethiopia that he heard an accurate description of but didn't see. The description closely matches the Scaphognathus crassirostris species. The length, like a palm frond, is about right. The tail vane is described, proving it had to be the Rhamphorhynchoidea (long-tailed) sub-order. Also a head crest is specified. The Scaphognathus was the only long-tailed pterosaur with a head crest known from the fossil record. Martin Luther may have been familiar with the Scaphognathus since he talked about the tongues at Pentecost being divided like the shape of the crest of the flying serpents. Modern science has preserved the tradition of the basilic by naming a lizard species with a head crest by that name.

Isaiah's Experience at God's Throne

Joines has documented the similarity between Isaiah's description of God's throne and Egyptian royal symbolism. The flying serpent was always associated with deity or royalty in the Egyptian court. Indeed it appears that the Pharaoh sometimes had a flying serpent head regalia (and only the Pharaoh or a god would wear that, see Fig. 7).

King Tutankhamun's treasure is riddled through with flying serpents representations. Included are his throne, beaten gold work, etc. Then too, the Egyptians often depicted flying serpents with folded wings. It is also likely that some seal images that appear to be cobras are in reality flying serpents with folded wings.

It appears that Isaiah's experience in the temple of the LORD caused quite a stir. He called the "angels" that he saw saraphs or the plural seraphim (the same word as the animals). It could be that some of the flying serpent symbolism influenced Isaiah when he called the two angelic beings near God's throne 'standing seraphim.'

Pterosaurs: A Cultural Phenomenon When Isaiah Prophesied

It is my belief, based on the biblical and archaeological evidence, that the pterosaurs became cultural icons for Judah after Isaiah's vision in the year that King Uzziah died (740 B.C. according to Thiele). There are a number of factors that point to that such as the many seals, dating from that era, depicting those animals and also the worship of Nehushtan, the brazen saraph or pterosaur. Then, too, there is Isaiah's mention of them at least twice (14:29, 30:6).

The worship of Nehushtan was very likely an unfortunate byproduct of Isaiah's vision. As stated earlier, the Hebrew word, a hapax legomenon, appears to be a compound of nahash (serpent) and tan (griffin). That is an apt description of a pterosaur, having two legs and two wings yet a body like a snake, if the original word saraph had been forgotten, or the animal it represented was now known as tan. That eventuality is very likely since saraph is mentioned a few times in the Pentateuch and then never again until 700 years later by Isaiah.

Indeed a plate found with Sennacherib's booty at Calah (Nimrud) depicts a winged serpent on a pole (i.e. Nehushtan and/or the brazen saraph of Moses [Fig. 2]). A lmlk seal, universally thought to date from Hezekiah's reign and found in many excavations of the cities of Judah, was found in the same area at the Assyrian palace as well as other bronzes with Hebrew inscriptions. Therefore it appears likely that the plate is of Hebrew or Phoenician origin and represents Nehushtan.

Hezekiah, a godly king, realized that Moses's symbol, though it had honored God, had become perverted into an idol. Therefore he destroyed it during the religious revival after he became first regent in c. 727. That would have been about 13 years after Isaiah's vision of the seraphim (in the year that King Uzziah died). Seals from both the northern and the southern kingdoms attest to the cultural popularity of the pterosaurs at that time. It had been a primary symbol of Egypt for many centuries before that, but was new to Judean and Israelite culture during the eighth century B.C.

As well as the religious significance, the pterosaur symbol reflected the widespread popularity of the Egyptian military alliance against the Assyrians among Judah's upper classes. The same strategy had been unsuccessfully pursued by Israel earlier; however their failure would not deter Judah. In fact, a Judean seal from that era has been found with a tripartite style including a Hebrew name; a pterosaur; and an Egyptian ankh (Fig. 4). Another northern kingdom flying serpent was found at Samaria with a Hebrew inscription of the "priest of Dor" on it (Fig. 5). A flying serpent seal from Judah was found at Lachish (Fig. 3). At least nine flying serpent seals with four wings have been found, some of them at or near Lachish (Fig. 6). All of them date from the eighth century. The reason for the four wings could be the prohibition of a graven image of anything on earth or heaven. The earthly animal had two wings and the heavenly angel had six. However, nothing is known with four wings. The flying reptile symbol appears to have continued in use for the next 100 years until the time of Jeremiah.

Isaiah's reaction to that development may be seen in the progression of the writings he has given us. First the word is used of angelic beings (6:2, 743 B.C.); then it is a dangerous animal symbolizing the Messianic Davidic king (14:29, 727 B.C.); next it is a dangerous nuisance in the Sinai to the embassy traveling to Egypt (30:6, c. 717 B.C.). It is interesting that Isaiah once mentions the ibis bird (34:11 yanshup Jvwny, also found in Lev. 11:17, Deut. 14:16; see also the Septuagint, 'ibis', ibei": the ibis was the natural predator of the pterosaurs according to many ancient witnesses. That may have been intended by Isaiah to allude to the spiritual and political weakness that had evolved regarding the pterosaur symbol. Isaiah's mention of the ibis is the first, and only, since the two from the Pentateuch.

There appears to be clear allusions by Isaiah to the brazen serpent worship Judah had indulged in Isaiah 42:8: "I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images." Later, in chapter 44, Isaiah discourses against idolatry (vss. 9-20) and then says, "Remember these things, O Jacob ... I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you (vss. 21-22)." Perhaps the remnant from Sennacherib's invasion became conscious stricken about the past worship of Nehushtan and now they were assured of forgiveness. Of course these ideas are consistent with Isaiah chapters 40-66 occurring soon after the Assyrian crisis.

Pterosaurs: Dangerous Animals Encountered During the Exodus

I have often thought about the Israelites demise to the poisonous serpents during the Exodus. I could understand how a few might be surprised and bitten by lurking snakes, but have often been puzzled by the specter of tens of thousands continuing to be bitten. I have envisioned a snake quickly gliding across the desert after a desperately fleeing Israelite who would at last succumb and be bitten. That scenario just did not compute.

Recently I have realized just how realistic the danger was. Many ancient authors tell of aerial attack by flying reptiles who bit with venomous cruelty. If the flying reptiles were highly nimble in the air, as indicated by the Hebrew polal participle for flying, then they could have been difficult to avoid.

Josephus tells of a similar problem encountered by Moses when leading the Egyptian army against Nubia:

Moses ... did not march by river, but by land, where he gave a wonderful demonstration of his sagacity; for when the ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents (which it produces in vast numbers, and indeed is singular in some of those productions, which other countries do not breed, and yet such as are worse than others in power and mischief, and an unusual fierceness of sight, some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and do come upon men at unawares, and do them mischief).

Moses invented a wonderful stratagem to preserve the army safe, and without hurt; for he made baskets like unto arks, of sedge, and filled them with ibes [ibis], and carried them along with them; which animal is the greatest enemy to serpents imaginable, for they fly from them when they come near them; and as they fly they are caught and devoured by them, as if it were done by the harts. ...

As soon as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes [ibis], and by their means repelled the serpentine kind, and used them for his assistants before the army came upon that ground. When he had therefore proceeded thus on his journey, he came upon the Ethiopians before they had expected him; and joining battle with them he beat them (2,10,2).

However, there were no ibis birds to protect the Israelites in the wilderness. The apostle Paul confirms the historicity of the event with his first epistle to the Corinthians: Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents (10:9). The Greek word that Paul uses, ofewn, is the dative plural of ofi", a word used of both terrestrial and flying reptiles by first century Greek authors. A word for 'winged,' such as petein (like the Septuagint) sometimes modifies the subject when pterosaurs were being described.

Deuteronomy, recounting the miracle of the Exodus, confirms the danger of pterosaurs and God's protection during the 40 years. Who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions (8:15). The "fiery serpents", prw whn nahash saraph is the same compound word found in the Numbers account of the mass attack of venomous pterosaurs.

Isaiah's derisive oracle (30:6-8) about the ill-fated expedition to seek Egyptian aid to defeat Assyria probably also remembers the Exodus experience. The Israelite envoys would risk all the dangerous animals of the desert to seek Egyptian aid that would not help them.

Pterosaurs: Symbolic of the Messiah

The pterosaur's symbolism for Christ is found in both the Pentateuch and Isaiah. The Exodus event, with the brazen saraph being raised in the wilderness was explicitly mentioned by Christ to Nicodemus to be symbolic for his crucifixion (Jn. 3:14). His sacrifice would provide spiritual healing to all who would look in faith like the physical healing provided during the Exodus.

One interesting facet to be gained by acknowledging the saraph to be a pterosaur is the consistency of biblical symbolism. The serpent is universally a symbol of evil and of Satan from Gen. 3 right through to Rev. 20. How could an animal that almost always symbolized the Devil be taken to symbolize Christ? When the saraph is seen to be a pterosaur, distinct from the serpent, the imagery becomes clear.

The other allusions to pterosaurs, found in Is. 14:29 and 30:6, provide another symbol of the Messiah. When the young and inexperienced King Hezekiah was confronted by the condescending Philistine delegation attempting to coerce him into resisting Assyria with their doomed coalition, Isaiah prophesied a resurgence of the Davidic monarchy that had suffered such drastic defeats under King Ahaz, Hezekiah's father who had just died (Is. 14:28).

Using the Philistine's own royal imagery, modeled after the Egyptians, Isaiah predicted that from the broken Judean monarchy two increasingly deadly (to the Philistines) rulers would emerge. The tsepha and then, the most dangerous, the flying saraph. Philistine rulers, like their neighbors the Egyptians, often designated royalty with the serpent insignia. Sometimes the insignia was a flying serpent (see Fig. 7).

The tsepha is believed to represent Hezekiah who would defeat the Philistines to a greater extent than any other Israeli/Judean ruler. The church fathers Cyril and Theodoretus concurred with that idea. He conquered the Philistines all the way to Gaza, the furthest city of the territory (2 Ki. 18:8).

The saraph, a poisonous pterosaur, was none other than the Messiah Himself. This interpretation was recorded by the Jewish Targum for Is. 14:29. This symbolism is consistent with that of the saraph for Numbers and John. The pterosaurs were animals that once lived in the mid-east and were symbolic of Christ.

Jeremiah and the Pterosaur that Bit Cattle

An interesting hapax legomenon occurs in Jer. 46:20, the Creq, qeretz. Most modern versions translate that as 'gadfly' or 'horsefly.' However, we will demonstrate, that that is extremely doubtful. The picture the verse presents is an avian coming to bite a mammalian quadruped. The NASB translates it, "Egypt is a pretty heifer, but a Creq is coming from the north--it is coming."

The meaning of that obscure Hebrew word was lost in antiquity before the Septuagint was translated. There are two variants for that word from the Septuagint, O translates it apospasma, meaning tearing away, severing; and A and S egkentrizwn, meaning goading on, spurring on. Modern scholarship, however, has found equivalent Aramaic and Arabic words (to the Hebrew) that mean literally, 'a biter.' That would correspond best with the O edition of the Septuagint. Specifically, the Arabic word is now ascribed to an insect (i.e. horsefly). Many animal words, though, change their meaning after the animal becomes extinct.

It is extremely unlikely that Creq meant a fly since the Hebrews had another word for the fly. That word, bUbz zebub, is found once in the plural (Ec. 10:1) and once in the singular (Is. 7:18). Like many animals, the root of that word appears to be descriptive one standing for erratic motion, hither and yonder. Clearly, Isaiah 7:18 suggests a troublesome insect since the context also mentions a bee. Therefore it cannot be argued that the Hebrews employed distinctive words for houseflies and the horseflies with a more painful sting. Archaeology suggests another identification for the Creq.

There are at least four ancient seals depicting an avian biting a large quadruped mammal. The first is a seal found in Israel with a long-tailed flying reptile attacking an ibex (Fig. 8). It is now owned by Tel Aviv U. The other three are all from Egypt. One is from Rowe's encyclopedia of seals, with a pterodactyloid (short-tailed) flying reptile hunting an antelope (Fig. 9), another is from the Mitry Collection and is also a pterodactyloid pterosaur with a single wing claw for each wing hunting a gazelle (now with the author's collection), the fourth is from Beth Pelet, a sketch of a seal with a flying reptile about to bite a quadruped (Fig. 10). For each of those the avian is a pterosaur or a now extinct flying reptile. Two rings (Figs. 8 and 10) depict the jaws open; about to bite just like the Hebrew name for the animal indicates. Although further work is necessary to determine the precise species, if it is now known from the fossil record, the preponderance of archaeological and linguistic evidence suggests that the qeretz was a pterosaur.


The archaeological evidence confirms the cultural phenomenon of flying reptiles in both the northern and southern kingdoms in the eighth century, corresponding with the time of Isaiah's prophecy. The symbol was prominent in Egypt many centuries before its popularity in Israel and Judah. Indeed Isaiah's word for pterosaurs, saraph, is a loan word from Egypt and probably represented a griffin, an animal unkown to modern science for which fossils may someday be found. The name of the griffin for Israel was probably tan, and therefore the usage of nehushtan instead of nahash saraph.

The metal bowl found at Nimrud, among the Assyrian loot from late eighth century Judah, indicates that Nehushtan was a flying serpent. That would be consistent with Isaiah's rediscovery of the word saraph that had not been used since the Exodus and had, apparently, been forgotten. That bowl is additional evidence of the cultural phenomenon that occurred when Isaiah had his dramatic experience at God's throne. The many seals from Israel and Judah are also some of that evidence. The ancient accounts of some poisonous pterosaurs matches the context of the exotic animal that Isaiah mentioned.

The knowledge that the saraph was a pterosaur, not the cursed serpent who is a symbol of Satan, yields a consistent biblical imagery for the allusion of Christ in John 3:14 and Isaiah 14:29.

The strong evidence that pterosaurs lived recently, and were not extinct 140 million years ago, contradicts mainstream scientific theory and the idea of long geologic ages. Instead, it appears that the pterosaur fossils are from the Genesis flood and that those animals survived on the ark and lived afterwards until they became extinct hundreds of years ago.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010


Watership Down

Instead of posting individual chapters of books i'm reading, i think i'll just let you download the whole book if you choose. Here's Watership Down, by Richard Adams. It's a book about rabbits, and the sad, horrifying, dangerous, victorious lives they lead. It's an amazing piece of literature.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Inner Light

Lo, if some pen should write upon your rafter,
Mene and Mene in the folds of flame,

Think you could any memories thereafter
Wholly retrace the couplet as it came?

Lo, if some strange, intelligible thunder
Sang to the earth the secret of a star,

Scarce could ye catch, for terror and for wonder,
Shreds of the story that was pealed so far.

Scarcely I catch the words of His revealing,
Hardly I hear Him, dimly understand,

Only the Power that is within me pealing
Lives on my lips and beckons to my hand.

Whoso has felt the Spirit of the Highest
Cannot confound nor doubt Him nor deny:

Yea, with one voice, O world, though thou deniest,
Stand thou on that side, for on this am I.

Rather the earth shall doubt when her retrieving
Pours in the rain and rushes from the sod,

Rather than he for whom the great conceiving
Stirs in his soul to quicken into God.

Ay, though thou then shouldst strike from him his glory,
Blind and tormented, maddened and alone,

Even on the cross would he maintain his story,
Yes, and in hell would whisper, I have known.

F.W.H. Myers, 1843-1901

Friday, February 19, 2010

To gnaw...

...another rope.

Ten times

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Creator/Destroyer, the Holy Sperm
(Let it be heard on the wind!)

Womb of Angels, the Crowned Mountain
(Let it be felt in the fire!)

A Spiral of Light, the Blood in the Dark
(Let it be seen on the earth!)


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Faint Young Sun Paradox

The faint young Sun paradox or problem describes the apparent contradiction between observations of liquid water early in the Earth's history and the astrophysical expectation that the Sun's output would be only 70% as intense during that epoch as it is during the modern epoch. The issue was raised by astronomers Carl Sagan and George Mullen in 1972.[1] Explanations of this paradox take into account greenhouse effects, astrophysical deliberations, or a combination of the two.

Early solar output

Early in the Earth's history, the Sun's output would be only 70% as intense during that epoch as it is during the modern epoch. In the current environmental conditions, this solar output would be insufficient to maintain a liquid ocean. Astronomers Carl Sagan and George Mullen pointed out in 1972 that this is contrary to the geologic and paleontological evidence.[1]

According to the Standard Solar Model, stars similar to the Sun should gradually brighten over their main sequence life time.[2] However, with the predicted solar luminosity 4 billion (4 × 109) years ago and with greenhouse gas concentrations the same as are current for the modern Earth, any liquid water exposed to the surface would freeze. However, the geological record shows a continually relatively warm surface in the full early temperature record of the Earth, with the exception of a cold phase about 2.4 billion years ago. Water-related sediments have been found that date to as early as 3.8 billion years ago.[3] Hints of early life forms have been dated from as early as 3.5 billion years,[4] and the basic carbon isotopy is very much in line with what is found today.[5] A regular change between ice ages and warm periods is only to be found since one billion years.[citation needed]

Greenhouse hypothesis

When it first formed, Earth's atmosphere may have contained more greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide concentrations may have been higher, with estimated partial pressure as large as 1,000 kPa (10 bar), because there was no plant photosynthesis to convert the gas into oxygen. Methane, a very active greenhouse gas which reacts with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, may have been more prevalent as well, with a mixing ratio of 10−4 parts per million by volume.[6][7]

Based on a study of geological sulfur isotopes, in 2009 a group of scientists including Yuichiro Ueno from the University of Tokyo proposed that carbonyl sulfide (OCS) was present in the Archean atmosphere. Carbonyl sulfide is an efficient greenhouse gas and the scientists estimate that the additional greenhouse effect would have been sufficient to prevent the Earth from freezing over.[8]

Following the initial accretion of the continents after about 1 billion years,[9] geo-botanist Heinrich Walter and others believe that a non-biological version of the carbon cycle provided a negative temperature feedback. The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolved in liquid water and combined with metal ions derived from silicate weathering to produce carbonates. During ice age periods, this part of the cycle would shut down. Volcanic carbon emissions would then restart a warming cycle due to the greenhouse effect.[10][11]

According to the Snowball Earth hypothesis, there may have been a number of periods when the Earth's oceans froze over completely. The most recent such period may have been about 630 million years ago.[12] Afterwards, the Cambrian explosion of new multicellular life forms started.

Astronomical considerations

A minority view, propounded by the Israeli-American physicist Nir Shaviv, uses climatological influences of solar wind, combined with a hypothesis of Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark for a cooling effect of cosmic rays, to explain the paradox.[13] According to Shaviv, the early Sun had emitted a stronger solar wind that produced a protective effect against cosmic rays. In that early age, a moderate greenhouse effect comparable to today's would have been sufficient to explain an ice-free Earth.

The temperature minimum around 2.4 billion years goes along with a cosmic ray flux modulation by a variable star formation rate in the Milky Way Galaxy. The reduced solar impact later results into a stronger impact of cosmic ray flux (CRF), which is hypothesized to lead to a relationship with climatological variations.

An alternative model of solar evolution has been proposed as an explanation for the faint young sun paradox. In this model, the early Sun underwent an extended period of higher solar wind output. This caused a mass loss from the Sun on the order of 5−10% over its lifetime, resulting in a more consistent level of solar luminosity. (As the early Sun had more mass, resulting in more energy output than was predicted.) In order to explain the warm conditions in the Archean era, this mass loss must have occurred over an interval of about one billion years. However, records of ion implantation from meteorites and lunar samples show that the elevated rate of solar wind flux only lasted for a period of 0.1 billion years. Observations of the young Sun-like star π1 Ursa Majoris matches this rate of decline in the stellar wind output, suggesting that a higher mass loss rate can not by itself resolve the paradox.[14]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fear the Reaper

The Black Death

The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is widely thought to have been an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, but this view has recently been challenged. Usually thought to have started in Central Asia, it had reached the Crimea by 1346. From there, probably carried by fleas residing on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships, it spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population, reducing the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400. This has been seen as creating a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe's population to recover. The plague returned at various times, resulting in a larger number of deaths, until it left Europe in the 19th century.


The Black Death is categorized into three specific types of plague: bubonic plague (infection in the lymph nodes, or [hence] buboes), pneumonic plague (the infection in the lungs), and septicemic plague (the infection in the blood and the most deadly of the three). Scientists and historians at the beginning of the 20th century assumed that the Black Death was an outbreak of the same diseases, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and spread by fleas which primarily made use of highly mobile small animal populations like that of the black rat (Rattus rattus). Once infected by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, it is estimated that victims would die within three to seven days.[1] However, this view has recently been questioned by some scientists and historians,[2] and some researchers, examining historical records of the spread of disease,[3][4] believe that the illness was, in fact, a viral hemorrhagic fever.

Some historians believe the pandemic began in China or Central Asia (one such location is Lake Issyk Kul)[5] in the lungs of the bobac variety of marmot, spreading to fleas, to rats, and eventually to humans.[6] In the late 1320s or 1330s, merchants and soldiers carried it over the caravan routes until in 1346 it reached the Crimea in South Eastern Europe. Other scholars believe the plague was endemic in that area. In either case, from Crimea the plague spread to Western Europe and North Africa during the 1340s.[7][8] The total number of deaths worldwide is estimated at 75 million people,[9] approximately 25–50 million of which occurred in Europe.[10][11] The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population.[12][13][14] It may have reduced the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400.[15]

The plague is thought to have returned every generation with varying virulence and mortality until the 1700s.[16] During this period, more than 100 plague epidemics swept across Europe.[4] On its return in 1603, the plague killed 38,000 Londoners.[17] Other notable 17th-century outbreaks were the Italian Plague of 1629–1631, and the Great Plague of Seville (1647–1652), the Great Plague of London (1665–1666),[18] and the Great Plague of Vienna (1679). There is some controversy over the identity of the disease, but in its virulent form, after the Great Plague of Marseille in 1720–1722,[19] the Great Plague of 1738 (which hit eastern Europe), and the Russian plague of 1770-1772, it seems to have disappeared from Europe during the 19th century.

The 14th-century eruption of the Black Death had a drastic effect on Europe's population, irrevocably changing the social structure. It was, arguably, a serious blow to the Catholic Church, and resulted in widespread persecution of minorities such as Jews, foreigners, beggars, and lepers. The uncertainty of daily survival has been seen as creating a general mood of morbidity, influencing people to "live for the moment", as illustrated by Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron (1353).[20]


Medieval people called the catastrophe of the 14th century either the "Great Pestilence"' or the "Great Plague".[21] Writers contemporary to the plague referred to the event as the "Great Mortality". Swedish and Danish chronicles of the 16th century described the events as "black" for the first time, not to describe the late-stage sign of the disease, in which the sufferer's skin would blacken due to subepidermal hemorrhages (purpura), and the extremities would darken with gangrene (acral necrosis), as the term is more likely to refer to black in the sense of glum, lugubrious, or dreadful as to denote the terribleness and gloom of the events.[22] The German physician and medical writer Justus Hecker took that idea when he described the catastrophe in 1832[21] in his publication "Der schwarze Tod im vierzehnten Jahrhundert". The work was translated into English the following year, and under the influence of the cholera epidemic of that time, "The Black Death in the 14th century" gained widespread attention which coined the term Schwarzer Tod and Black Death in the German and English speaking worlds respectively.


The plague disease, generally thought to be caused by Yersinia pestis, is enzootic (commonly present) in populations of ground rodents (most specifically, the bobac variety of marmot)[23] in Central Asia, but it is not entirely clear where the 14th-century pandemic started. The popular theory places the first cases in the steppes of Central Asia, although some speculate that it originated around northern India, and others, such as the historian Michael W. Dols, argue that the historical evidence concerning epidemics in the Mediterranean and specifically the Plague of Justinian point to a probability that the Black Death originated in Africa and spread to Central Asia, where it then became entrenched among the rodent population.[24] Nevertheless, from Central Asia it was carried east and west along the Silk Road, by Mongol armies and traders making use of the opportunities of free passage within the Mongol Empire offered by the Pax Mongolica. It was reportedly first introduced to Europe at the trading city of Caffa in the Crimea in 1347. After a protracted siege, during which the Mongol army under Jani Beg was suffering the disease, they catapulted the infected corpses over the city walls to infect the inhabitants. The Genoese traders fled, taking the plague by ship into Sicily and the south of Europe, when it spread.[25] Whether or not this hypothesis is accurate, it is clear that several pre-existing conditions such as war, famine, and weather contributed to the severity of the Black Death. In China, the 13th century Mongol conquest disrupted farming and trading, and led to widespread famine. The population dropped from approximately 120 to 60 million.[26] The 14th-century plague is estimated to have killed one third of the population of China.[27]

In Europe, the Medieval Warm Period ended sometime towards the end of the 13th century, bringing the "Little Ice Age"[28] and harsher winters with reduced harvests. In the years 1315 to 1317 a catastrophic famine, known as the Great Famine, struck much of North West Europe. It has been argued that the famine came about as the result of a large population growth in the previous centuries, with the result that, in the early 14th century the population began to exceed the number that could be sustained by productive capacity of the land and farmers.[21]

In Northern Europe, new technological innovations such as the heavy plough and the three-field system were not as effective in clearing new fields for harvest as they were in the Mediterranean because the north had poor, clay-like, soil.[21] Food shortages and rapidly inflating prices were a fact of life for as much as a century before the plague. Wheat, oats, hay and consequently livestock, were all in short supply. Their scarcity resulted in malnutrition, which increases susceptibility to infections due to weakened immunity.

The European economy entered a vicious circle in which hunger and chronic, low-level debilitating disease reduced the productivity of labourers, and so the grain output was reduced, causing grain prices to increase. This situation was worsened when landowners and monarchs such as Edward III of England (r. 1327–1377) and Philip VI of France (r. 1328–1350), out of a fear that their comparatively high standard of living would decline, raised the fines and rents of their tenants.[21] Standards of living then fell drastically, diets grew more limited, and Europeans as a whole experienced more health problems.

In the autumn of 1314, heavy rains began to fall, which led to several years of cold and wet winters. The already weak harvests of the north suffered and the seven-year famine ensued. The Great Famine was arguably the worst in European history, perhaps reducing the population by more than 10%.[21] Records recreated from dendrochronological studies show a hiatus in building construction during the period, as well as a deterioration in climate.[29]

This was the economic and social situation in which the predictor of the coming disaster, a typhoid (contaminated water) epidemic, emerged. Many thousands died in populated urban centres, most significantly Ypres (now in Belgium). In 1318 a pestilence of unknown origin, sometimes identified as anthrax, targeted the animals of Europe, notably sheep and cattle, further reducing the food supply and income of the peasantry.


Bubonic infection

Several possible causes have been advanced for the Black Death; the most prevalent is the Bubonic plague theory[31] Efficient transmission of Y. pestis is generally thought to occur only through the bites of fleas whose mid guts become obstructed by replicating Y. pestis several days after feeding on an infected host. This blockage results in starvation and aggressive feeding behaviour by fleas that repeatedly attempt to clear their blockage by regurgitation, resulting in thousands of plague bacteria being flushed into the feeding site, infecting the host. However, modelling of epizootic plague observed in prairie dogs, suggests that occasional reservoirs of infection such as an infectious carcass, rather than "blocked fleas" are a better explanation for the observed epizootic behaviour of the disease in nature.[32]

One hypothesis about the epidemiology (the appearance, spread and especially disappearance) of plague from Europe, is that the flea-bearing rodent reservoir of disease was eventually succeeded by another species. The Black Rat (Rattus rattus) was originally introduced from Asia to Europe by trade, but was subsequently displaced and succeeded throughout Europe by the bigger Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). The brown rat was not as prone to transmit the germ-bearing fleas to humans in major outbreaks due to it occupying a different ecological niche.[33][34] The dynamic complexities of rat ecology, herd immunity in that reservoir, interaction with human ecology, secondary transmission routes between humans with or without fleas, human herd immunity and changes in each might explain the eruption, dissemination, and re-eruptions of plague that continued for centuries until its (even more) unexplained disappearance.

The persecution of cats in Europe is often overlooked as a contributing factor in the spread of plague. In years prior to the outbreak, cats had been vilified and slain en masse, due to their growing popular association with Satan and witches. Pope Gregory IX declared cats' association with the devil in the early 1200s. The mass slaughter of cats preceding the arrival of infected rats greatly reduced a potential predator of the rat, allowing rat populations to flourish unnaturally.[35]

Signs and symptoms

The three forms of plague brought an array of signs and symptoms to those infected. The septicemic plague is a form of "blood poisoning," and pneumonic plague is an airborne plague that attacks the lungs before the rest of the body. The classic sign of bubonic plague was the appearance of buboes in the groin, the neck and armpits, which oozed pus and bled. Most victims died within four to seven days after infection.

The bubonic plague was the most commonly seen form during the Black Death, with a mortality rate of thirty to seventy-five percent and symptoms including fever of 38–41 °C (101–105 °F), headaches, painful aching joints, nausea and vomiting, and a general feeling of malaise. Of those who contracted the bubonic plague, 4 out of 5 died within eight days.[36]

Pneumonic plague was the second most commonly seen form during the Black Death, with a mortality rate of ninety to ninety-five percent. Symptoms included fever, cough, and blood-tinged sputum. As the disease progressed, sputum became free flowing and bright red.

Septicemic plague was the least common of the three forms, with a mortality rate close to one hundred percent. Symptoms were high fevers and purple skin patches (purpura due to DIC).

David Herlihy identifies another potential sign of the plague: freckle-like spots and rashes.[37] Sources from Viterbo, Italy refer to "the signs which are vulgarly called lenticulae", a word which bears resemblance to the Italian word for freckles, lentiggini. These are not the swellings of buboes, but rather "darkish points or pustules which covered large areas of the body".

Malthusian crisis

Some historians have suggested another theory for the cause of the Black Death, one that points to social, agricultural and economic causes. Often known as the Malthusian limit, scholars use this term to express and explain tragedies throughout history. In his 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population, Thomas Malthus asserted that eventually humans would reproduce so greatly that they would go beyond the limits of food supplies; once they reached this point, some sort of "reckoning" was inevitable. While the Black Death may appear to be a "reckoning" of this sort, it was in fact an external, unpredictable factor and does not therefore fit into the Malthusian theory. In his book, The Black Death and the Transformation of the West, professor David Herlihy explores this idea of plague as an inevitable crisis wrought on humanity in order to control the population and human resources. In the book The Black Death; A Turning Point in History? (ed. William M. Bowsky) he writes "implies that the Black Death's pivotal role in late medieval society ... was now being challenged. Arguing on the basis of a neo-Malthusian economics, revisionist historians recast the Black Death as a necessary and long overdue corrective to an overpopulated Europe."

Herlihy also examined the arguments against the Malthusian crisis, stating "if the Black Death was a response to excessive human numbers it should have arrived several decades earlier"[38] due to the population growth of years before the outbreak of the Black Death. Herlihy also brings up other, biological factors that argue against the plague as a "reckoning" by arguing "the role of famines in affecting population movements is also problematic. The many famines preceding the Black Death, even the 'great hunger' of 1314 to 1317, did not result in any appreciable reduction in population levels".[38] Herlihy concludes the matter stating, "the medieval experience shows us not a Malthusian crisis but a stalemate, in the sense that the community was maintaining at stable levels very large numbers over a lengthy period" and states that the phenomenon should be referred to as more of a deadlock, rather than a crisis, to describe Europe before the epidemics.[38]:34



Figures for the death toll vary widely by area and from source to source as new research and discoveries come to light. It killed an estimated 75–200 million people in the 14th century.[39][40][41] According to medieval historian Philip Daileader in 2007:

The trend of recent research is pointing to a figure more like 45% to 50% of the European population dying during a four-year period. There is a fair amount of geographic variation. In Mediterranean Europe and Italy, the South of France and Spain, where plague ran for about four years consecutively, it was probably closer to 75% to 80% of the population. In Germany and England ... it was probably closer to 20%.[42]

The best estimate for the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran and Syria, during the Islamic Middle Ages is for a death rate of a third.[43] The Black Death killed about 40% of Egypt's population.[44] Half of Paris's population of 100,000 people had died. In Italy, Florence's population was reduced from 110,000 or 120,000 inhabitants in 1338 to 50,000 in 1351. At least 60% of Hamburg's and Bremen's population perished.[45] Before 1350, there were about 170,000 settlements in Germany, and this had been reduced by nearly 40,000 by 1450.[46] The governments of Europe had no apparent response to the crisis because no one knew its cause or how it spread. In 1348, the plague spread so rapidly that before any physicians or government authorities had time to reflect upon its origins, about a third of the European population had already perished. In crowded cities, it was not uncommon for as much as fifty percent of the population to die. Europeans living in isolated areas suffered less and monasteries and priests were especially hard hit since they cared for the Black Death's victims.[47] Because 14th century healers were at a loss to explain the cause, Europeans turned to astrological forces, earthquakes, and the poisoning of wells by Jews as possible reasons for the plague's emergence.[21] The mechanism of infection and transmission of diseases was unknown in the 14th century; many people believed only God's anger could produce such horrific displays. There were many attacks against Jewish communities.[48] In August of 1349, the Jewish communities of Mainz and Cologne were exterminated. In February of that same year, the citizens of Strasbourg murdered 2,000 Jews.[48] By 1351, 60 major and 150 smaller Jewish communities had been destroyed.[49]

Where government authorities were concerned, most monarchs instituted measures that prohibited exports of foodstuffs, condemned black market speculators, set price controls on grain and outlawed large-scale fishing. At best, they proved mostly unenforceable and at worst they contributed to a continent-wide downward spiral. The hardest hit lands, like England, were unable to buy grain abroad: from France because of the prohibition, and from most of the rest of the grain producers because of crop failures from shortage of labour. Any grain that could be shipped was eventually taken by pirates or looters to be sold on the black market. Meanwhile, many of the largest countries, most notably England and Scotland, had been at war, using up much of their treasury and exacerbating inflation. In 1337, on the eve of the first wave of the Black Death, England and France went to war in what would become known as the Hundred Years' War. Malnutrition, poverty, disease and hunger, coupled with war, growing inflation and other economic concerns made Europe in the mid-14th century ripe for tragedy. The Brotherhood of the Flagellants, a movement said to number up to 800,000, reached its peak of popularity.[50]


In England, in the absence of census figures, historians propose a range of pre-incident population figures from as high as 7 million to as low as 4 million in 1300,[51] and a post-incident population figure as low as 2 million.[52] By the end of 1350 the Black Death had subsided, but it never really died out in England over the next few hundred years: there were further outbreaks in 1361–62, 1369, 1379–83, 1389–93, and throughout the first half of the 15th century.[53] The plague often killed 10% of a community in less than a year—in the worst epidemics, such as at Norwich in 1579 and Newcastle upon Tyne in 1636, as many as 30 or 40%. The most general outbreaks in Tudor and Stuart England, all coinciding with years of plague in Germany and the Low Countries, seem to have begun in 1498, 1535, 1543, 1563, 1589, 1603, 1625, and 1636.[54]

The plague repeatedly returned to haunt Europe and the Mediterranean throughout the 14th to 17th centuries, and although bubonic plague still occurs in isolated cases today, the Great Plague of London in 1665–1666 is generally recognised as one of the last major outbreaks.[55]

In 1466, perhaps 40,000 people died of plague in Paris.[56] In 1570, as many as 200,000 may have died in Moscow and in the adjacent neighborhood.[57] The plague of 1575–77 claimed some perhaps 50,000 victims in Venice. In 1625, 35,417 Londoners had died of the plague.[58] In 1634, an outbreak of plague killed perhaps 15,000 Munich residents.[50] Late outbreaks in central Europe included the Italian Plague of 1629–1631, which is associated with troop movements during the Thirty Years' War, and the Great Plague of Vienna in 1679. About 200,000 people in Moscow died of the disease from 1654 to 1656.[59] Over 60% of Norway's population died from 1348 to 1350.[60] The last plague outbreak ravaged Oslo in 1654.[11] In 1656 the plague killed about half of Naples' 300,000 inhabitants.[61] Amsterdam was ravaged in 1663–1664, with a mortality given as 50,000.[62]

In the first half of the 17th century a plague claimed some 1,730,000 victims in Italy, or about 14% of the population.[63] More than 1,250,000 deaths resulted from the extreme incidence of plague in 17th century Spain.[64] In the Thirty Years' War, an estimated eight million Germans were killed by bubonic plague and typhus.[65] In 1710, a plague epidemic that followed the Great Northern War (1700–1721, Sweden v. Russia and allies) killed almost one third of the population in the region.[66] The plague killed two-thirds of the inhabitants of Helsinki,[67] and claimed a third of Stockholm's population.[68] Europe's last major epidemic occurred in 1720 in Marseilles.[60]

The Black Death ravaged much of the Islamic world.[69] Plague epidemics kept returning to the Islamic world up to the 19th century.[70] The cities of North Africa were especially hard hit by the disease. 30,000–50,000 died in Algiers in 1620–21, 1654–57, 1665, 1691, and 1740–42.[71]

The Third Pandemic started in China in the middle of the 19th century, spreading plague to all inhabited continents and killing 10 million people in India alone.[72] The plague bacterium could develop drug-resistance and again become a major health threat. The ability to resist many of the antibiotics used against plague has been found so far in only a single case of the disease in Madagascar.[73] From 1944 through 1993, 362 cases of human plague were reported in the United States; approximately 90% of these occurred in four western states.[74] Plague was confirmed in the United States from nine western states during 1995.[75]

In culture

The Black Death had a profound impact on art and literature throughout the generation that experienced it. Much of the most useful manifestations of the Black Death in literature, to historians, comes from the accounts of its chroniclers. Some of these chroniclers were famous writers, philosophers and rulers such as Boccaccio and Petrarch. Their writings, however, did not reach the majority of the European population. Petrarch's work was read mainly by wealthy nobles and merchants of Italian city-states. He wrote hundreds of letters and vernacular poetry, and passed on to later generations a revised interpretation of courtly love.[76] There was one troubadour, writing in the lyric style long out of fashion, who was active in 1348. Peire Lunel de Montech composed the sorrowful sirventes "Meravilhar no·s devo pas las gens" during the height of the plague in Toulouse.

They died by the hundreds, both day and night, and all were thrown in ... ditches and covered with earth. And as soon as those ditches were filled, more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura ... buried my five children with my own hands ... And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.
The Plague in Siena: An Italian Chronicle[77]
How many valiant men, how many fair ladies, breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world! The condition of the people was pitiable to behold. They sickened by the thousands daily, and died unattended and without help. Many died in the open street, others dying in their houses, made it known by the stench of their rotting bodies. Consecrated churchyards did not suffice for the burial of the vast multitude of bodies, which were heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ships hold and covered with a little earth.
Giovanni Boccaccio[78]