More than 1,000 years ago, one specific year makes a very good case for being the darkest in human history.
Medieval historian Michael McCormick suggests the year 536, which marked the comer of an 18-month-long fog that enveloped much of the Northern Hemisphere in literal blackness, was the depths of human existence.
“Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years,” explained Science Magazine. “Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record ‘a failure of bread from the years 536–539.’”
The bubonic plague struck the Roman Empire’s outpost at Pelusium in Egypt, just two years later. Soon the pandemic dispersed to Eastern Europe, cleaning out as much as half of the population and accelerating the fall of the Empire.
Historians have long been aware that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour (aka the Dark Ages), though the generator of the ruinous fog has long been a puzzle – until now.
Scientists utilizing ice core samples from a Swiss glacier have described an Icelandic volcano eruption as the perpetrator. Its colossal ash plume blotted out the sun, provoking havoc on agriculture and leading to general disease and famine.
Thereby, 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, primarily young adults; and 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe, were not the worst times in human history . . . sorry, theorists.
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