‘Vampire’ graves in Poland where skeletons were buried with skulls between their legs
Archaeologists have unearthed what they believe to be a vampire burial ground on a building site in Poland.
The team of historians discovered graves containing four skeletons with their heads removed and placed between their legs near the southern town of Gliwice.
Decapitating a suspected vampire was common practice in medieval times because it was thought to be the only way to ensure the dead stay dead.
No possessions: The exact fate of the skeletons is yet unclear, but the archaeologists noted that, apart from being headless, there was no trace of any earthly possessions, such as jewellery, belts or buckles
The exact fate of the skeletons is yet unclear, but the archaeologists noted that, apart from being headless, there was no trace of any earthly possessions, such as jewellery, belts or buckles.
‘It’s very difficult to tell when these burials were carried out,’ archaeologist Dr Jacek Pierzak told the Dziennik Zachodni newspaper.
The remains have been sent for further testing but initial estimations suggest they died sometime around the 16th century.
It comes a year after archaeologists in Bulgaria claimed to have discovered two ‘vampire’ corpses in excavations near a monastery in the Black Sea town of Sozopol, both more than 800 years old and pierced through the chest with heavy iron rods.
Bulgaria’s national museum chief Bozidhar Dimitrov said as many as 100 such ‘vampire corpses’ have been found in the country in recent years.
‘They illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century,’ he explained.
Even today, the vampire remains a very real threat in the minds of villagers in some of the most remote communities of Eastern Europe, where garlic and crucifixes are readily wielded, and where bodies are exhumed so that a stake can be driven through their heart.
The notion of blood-sucking vampires preying on the flesh of the living goes back thousands of years and was common in many ancient cultures, where tales of these reviled creatures of the dead abounded.
It comes a year after archaeologists in Bulgaria claimed to have discovered two ‘vampire’ corpses in excavations near a monastery in the Black Sea town of Sozopol, both more than 800 years old and pierced through the chest with heavy iron rods
Archaeologists recently found 3,000 Czech graves, for example, where bodies had been weighed down with rocks to prevent the dead emerging from their tombs.
The advent of Christianity only fuelled the vampire legends, for they were considered the antithesis of Christ — spirits that rose from the dead bodies of evil people.
Such vampires would stalk the streets in search of others to join their unholy pastime of sucking the lifeblood from humans and animals to survive.
In medieval times, when the Church was all-powerful and the threat of eternal damnation encouraged superstition among a peasantry already blighted by the Black Death, the fear of vampires was omnipresent. In some cases, the dead were buried with a brick wedged in their mouths to stop them rising up to eat those who had perished from the plague.
Records show that in the 12th Century on the Scottish Borders, a woman claimed she was being terrorised by a dead priest who had been buried at Melrose Abbey only days earlier.
When the monks uncovered the tomb, they claimed to have found the corpse bleeding fresh blood. The corpse of the priest, well known for having neglected his religious duties, was burned.
But vampiric folklore largely flourished in Eastern European countries and Greece, where they did not have a tradition of believing in witches. And just as with witches in England, Germany and America, the vampire became a scapegoat for a community’s ills.
The ‘civilised’ world came to learn of vampires in the 18th century as Western empires expanded and their peoples travelled to remote parts of Central and Eastern Europe.
With the spread of Austria’s empire, for example, the West became aware of the story of the remote village of Kisilova (believed to be modern-day Kisiljevo in Hungary) after it had been annexed by the Austrians.