A team of archaeologists have recovered skeletons in a graveyard buried in the manner of vampires or, more accurately, remains buried in a manner where those that buried them feared they might return as vampires. Spiegel Online reported (via ABC News) July 27 that archaeologists unearthed at least 17 sets of remains in a cemetery in southern Poland where the decapitated heads of the dead had been placed between the knees or hands of the deceased.
According to the archaeologists, such a ritualistic placement of the severed heads is consistent with the way some cultures interred those they feared were vampires. Such a burial, along with stones being placed on the skulls, was believed to keep the vampires from rising from the dead.
Four sets of skeletons were originally found earlier this month by the construction workers who were building a road outside the town of Gilwice. Another 13 sets of skeletons arranged similarly were soon recovered in what was soon discovered to be a cemetery. And, oddly enough, not one set of remains was found with adornment, jewelry, or even remnants of garments.
The scientists believe the skeletons were all buried in the 15th or 16th centuries. It was during this time, they noted, that the belief in vampires was widespread and greatly feared.
Jacek Pierzak, chief archaeologist for the city of Katowice’s monument protection office, told Polish newspaper Dziennik Zachodni: “It was one of the most common forms of burying vampires.”
Lukasz Obtulowicz, an archaeologist also from the monument protection office, said on Polish television that there were clear indications that this was the site of a vampire burial.
But there might be another explanation. The cemetery lies near a place of execution, where a gallows once was erected.
Thus far, 43 sets of skeletons have been recovered, not all exhibiting the ritualistic burial. The bones have been removed to determine age and cause of death (if possible). Historians will join in on the investigation and use old church logs and records of executions in order to perhaps accurately explain the strange burial procedure in the graveyard.
The Polish cemetery in Gilwice is just the latest where skeletal remains have been recovered where archaeologists believe the interred were thought by those that buried them to be vampires. Last year, two medieval skeletons were found by archaeologists in Bulgaria that appeared to have been buried in a graveyard in a manner where they could not rise from the dead to prey on the living. They skeletons were found to have been pierced through the chest with iron rods.
In 2006, Italian forensic archaeologist Matteo Borrini discovered remains of a woman who had undergone an exorcism ritual in a mass grave on the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo near Venice. The skull had a brick forcing the jaws apart, another way the living kept vampires from returning in the 16th century, which is when the mass grave was dug to receive victims of the bubonic plague.