The remains of a “vampire woman” pinned to the ground with a sickle around her neck and a lock on one finger to “stop her coming back from the dead” have been found in a Polish village.
The remains were discovered during archaeological work in a 17th-century cemetery in the town of Pień, researchers also discovered that the skeletal remains had a silk headdress on his head — indicating that he had a high social status — and a prominent tooth.
Team leader Professor Dariusz Poliński from Nicolaus Copernicus University in the nearby city of Torun said the form of burial was unusual: “Ways to prevent the dead from rising include cutting off the head or feet, placing the deceased face down to bite the ground, burning it and crushing it with a stone,” he explained. “The sickle was not stretched out, but was placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased ever attempted to rise, the head would most likely be cut off or injured.” He added that the padlocked big toe on the skeleton’s left foot probably symbolizes “the closing of a stage and the impossibility of turning back”.
Records of undead or vampire myths date back to the 11th century in Eastern Europe. People feared that some of the buried would rise to the surface as blood-sucking monsters that would terrorize the living.
It is common to find burial sites in the region where a metal bar, or stake, has been driven through the skull of the deceased. People at the time believed that this was a way to ensure that the person remained dead.
In some parts of the continent, especially among the Slavs, belief in vampire legends became so widespread that it caused mass hysteria and even led to the execution of people believed to be vampires.
People who died prematurely, such as by suicide, were often suspected of vampirism, and their bodies were mutilated to prevent them from rising from the dead.
In 2015, archaeologists in the town of Drewsko, 130 miles away, found five skeletons similarly buried in a 400-year-old cemetery. The sickles were found pressed against the necks of an adult man, who was between 35 and 44 years old, and an adult woman, who was between 35 and 39 years old. A woman between the ages of 50 and 60 who, when she died, was buried with a sickle on her hips and a medium-sized stone around her neck.
According to popular wisdom, a sickle protects women in labor, children, and the dead against evil spirits. It also had a role in rituals designed to counter black magic and witchcraft.
The latest discovery has now been sent to Torun, where archaeologists will carry out further investigations.