(ORDO NEWS) — Recently, archaeologists recently discovered in Poland an example of a “vampire” burial with a sickle around the neck so that the buried person would no longer rise from the grave. But there are other ways in which people prevented the dead from walking among the living.
Italian “anti-vampire” stones
The woman’s body was discovered in a 16th-century tomb in Lazzaretto Nuovo, about 3 kilometers from Venice, Italy.
The woman, nicknamed “Carmilla” by the scientists who discovered her, was found with a brick in her mouth in a mass grave, a strange ritual unlike any other burial site of the time.
Little is known about her personality during her lifetime, but archaeologists do know that she died during a deadly outbreak of the bubonic plague.
“I needed to find an explanation for someone actually manipulating the body of a person with a terminal illness,” Matteo Borrini, head lecturer in forensic anthropology at Liverpool John Moores University, told Insider.
Borrini was the lead scientist at the excavations. He did a thorough forensic examination to understand what had happened. He discovered that this woman was probably considered a nachzehrer, a type of vampire from ancient European folklore.
“This is not the classic image of a vampire who comes out at night and sucks the blood of people. It’s more like someone who kills people from the grave before being able to resurrect as a full-fledged vampire, ”the expert noted.
“I discovered that there was a tradition that certain bodies were believed by people to be responsible for spreading the plague.
They were not completely dead and were taken over by some kind of demonic influence, ”said Borrini, describing the old beliefs. “In their graves, they literally chewed shrouds and spread the plague in some black magical way.”
According to these beliefs, putting a brick in a nachzehrer’s mouth would prevent it from chewing its way out and thus protect the living from disease.
However, Carmilla was not considered a vampire in her lifetime. Borrini’s work showed that the mass grave was dug up again after Carmilla was buried. At this point, her body, still wrapped in a shroud, probably hadn’t completely decomposed yet.
The gravediggers, faced with this body, seemingly still fresh, with a decayed shroud around its mouth, may have assumed that the body was possessed and placed a brick in its mouth.
Stone that saves the soul
Researchers from the University of Arizona and Stanford University found another example of a “vampire”. This one was buried in a children’s cemetery on the site of the ancient Roman villa of Poggio Gramignano in Teverina, Italy.
The child, who was about 10 years old, was buried in the 5th century during a deadly outbreak of malaria. A stone was also placed in the child’s mouth.
Jordan Wilson, lead bioarchaeologist at the Villa Romana di Poggio Gramignano archaeological project, told Insider that the stone was likely there to prevent the child’s soul from entering or leaving the body.
“There is a very ancient idea that breathing is connected to life and the soul, and the mouth, in particular, is a kind of portal through which the soul exits after death,” she noted.
The stone could be a way to keep the body or spirit of a child from spreading disease, or even torturing the living. It may also have been a way to keep the child safe from witches, who were believed to be able to raise children from the dead and use their souls.
Vampires as disease carriers
“Vampire” myths have accompanied the death of a person for centuries. According to Borrini, these were ways to understand things that could not be explained with the knowledge of the time, such as mysterious deaths during an infectious outbreak.
“These ‘vampires’ begin to hunt and kill first family members, then neighbors, and then the rest of the village. This is a classic example of a contagious disease,” he said.
Borrini defines a “vampire” as a dead person who has risen from the dead as a body. “The idea that the dead can either literally rise from the grave, or that the spiritually dead can continue to plague the living after death, is something that is essentially present in almost every culture and has very, very ancient origins.” say the authors of the study.
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