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Volume 8, Number 9—September 2002
Historical Review

Biological Warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa

Mark Wheelis*Comments to Author 
Author affiliation: *University of California, Davis, California USA

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Figure 1

Tentative chronology of the initial spread of plague in the mid-14th century (12–14).

Figure 1. Tentative chronology of the initial spread of plague in the mid-14th century (1214).

Main Article

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1Technically trebuchets, not catapults. Catapults hurl objects by the release of tension on twisted cordage; they are not capable of hurling loads over a few dozen kilograms. Trebuchets are counter-weight-driven hurling machines, very effective for throwing ammunition weighing a hundred kilos or more (22).

2Medieval society lacked a coherent theory of disease causation. Three notions coexisted in a somewhat contradictory mixture: 1) disease was a divine punishment for individual or collective transgression; 2) disease was the result of "miasma," or the stench of decay; and 3) disease was the result of person-to-person contagion (23).

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