October 27, 2014

Burial Ridge in Blacklist

In last week's episode of The Blacklist, titled The Front, (airdate: 10/20/14), the FBI team discovers several historical "facts":

  • That the Black Death was caused not by bubonic plague but by the more virulent pneumonic plague;

  • That a priest infected himself with the last sample of pneumonic plague to keep it from others;

  • That the priest fled to the New World a century before Columbus, where he died;

  • That the priest was buried at an Indian site called Burial Ridge on Staten Island;

  • That his bones were moved "31 miles east" to the site of the Trinity Church in lower Manhattan.

  • One reviewer rightly criticized this scenario:[T]he whole secret about a cadre of 4 priests in the 1300s taking the body of a colleague that contained a weaponized virus developed by the Byzantines and the Ottomans in the 13th century and then those priests stashing the body in a Indian burial ground on Staten Island before New York was even discovered (let alone before Columbus' time) is far fetched for even for a Clive Cussler novel, let alone in this show.

    Plus I'm not to sure if the writers really grasp the whole concept of distance and direction, but 31 miles east of anywhere on Staten Island does not put you in lower Manhattan near the Freedom Tower, they should have been looking somewhere several miles east of JFK. Do the writers not think of things like that when they type this nonsense on their Macbooks sitting in Starbucks?
    Native lore

    Yeah, this isn't the show for a Da Vinci Code type of treasure hunt. Even so, I checked and learned some of these things are real:

    Burial RidgeBurial Ridge is a Native American archaeological site and burial ground located at Ward's Point--a bluff overlooking Raritan Bay in what is today the Tottenville section of Staten Island. The first documented evidence of Paleo-Indians using the site is from the end of the Early Archaic Period 8,000 years ago. The burial ground--used by the Lenape dating from the Woodland period until relinquishing Staten Island to the Dutch--is the largest pre-European burial ground in New York City and is today unmarked and lies today within Conference House Park.

    The agents called Burial Ridge the largest burial ground in "New York." If they meant the city, that's correct.

    I don't know if the site's location is supposed to be secret, but FBI and the terrorists knew where to find it.

    The Trinity Church is 29.7 miles from Conference House Park. That's close to 31 miles, but the direction is north-northeeast, not east.

    Pneumonic plague is real too:

    Pneumonic plaguePneumonic plague, a severe type of lung infection, is one of three main forms of plague, all of which are caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is more virulent and rare than bubonic plague. The difference between the versions of plague is simply the location of the infection in the body; the bubonic plague is an infection of the lymphatic system, the pneumonic plague is an infection of the respiratory system, and the septicaemic plague is an infection in the blood stream.I don't think it acts like the plague in The Blacklist, but the show covered itself by saying the terrorists genetically manipulated the bacteria.

    The FBI agents didn't have much time to ponder things during the plague panic. Fortunately, the infected terrorists stupidly put themselves on planes where the authorities could intercept them.

    But I was waiting for the agents to discuss the historical implications of their discoveries. "Europeans discovered the Western Hemisphere a hundred years before Columbus. Everything we know about world history since the Middle Ages is wrong!"

    Alas, that never happened. Maybe another episode will explore the profound consequences of overturning the Columbus "myth."

    Anyway, it was good to see a bit of Native lore in a network TV show. And mostly accurate lore, too.

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