Vampire legends were rife in Europe for several centuries, and local folklore includes a wide range of advice on how to prevent a recently deceased individual from emerging from the grave as a blood-sucking monster who preys on the living.
Discovery of the Skeleton on a Female Vampire
In a 17th-century Polish cemetery in Bydgoszcz, researchers have now discovered a unique example of people using exactly such strategies – a female skeleton whose contemporaries must have believed was a vampire, interred with a sickle across her neck and a padlock on the big toe of her left foot.
“It was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had tried to get up, most likely the head would have been cut off or injured. As for the padlock on the big toe, this symbolizes the closing of a stage and the impossibility of returning.”Dariusz Poliski of Nicholas Copernicus University
Medieval Burials in Bydgoszcz
Between 2005 and 2009, archaeologists found the first early medieval burials in the vicinity of Bydgoszcz. They also found jewellery, semi-precious stones, a metal bowl, and pieces of silk clothes.
An archaeological crew, led by Dariusz Poliski of Nicholas Copernicus University, went back to the site earlier this year in the hopes of finding more items. When that didn’t occur, they instead focused on a neigh boring 17th-century cemetery in the village of Pie.
That’s where the researchers discovered the grave containing the female skeleton with a sickle placed across her neck and a padlock on big toe.
Poliski explains that this is not the first time that vampire graves have been discovered in Poland. In 2008 archaeologists discovered several skeletons with severed heads as well as a body with holes drilled through the legs and a rock pushed into the mouth.
“Ways to protect against the return of the dead include cutting off the head or legs, placing the deceased face down to bite into the ground, burning them, and smashing them with a stone”Dariusz Poliski of Nicholas Copernicus University
However, this most recent discovery is different to the ones found previously. The positioning of the sickle, in particular, indicates that whereas in other finds the scythes or sickles were left as a gift to keep demons out of the body, in this case it was positioned in such a way as to cut off the woman’s head if she tried to rise from the dead as a vampire.
The skeleton appears to be that of a woman of high social standing, considering the care with which she was interred. Additionally, she had pieces of a silk cap on her head that were unaffordable for someone from a lower class. She had very obvious protruding front teeth, which could be why she was thought to be a vampire and was buried in such a manner.
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