Thursday, 18 July 2013

Vampires in archaeology

While reading student assignments, I was amused by a newspaper story reflecting the July mid-summer news draught. Archaeologists in Poland have made an announcement that they have found vampire burials. The interpretation why these particular burials would be those of vampires rests on the fact that the skeletons have their skulls between their thighs. A fact undermining this sensational interpretation is that there were actually gallows near the excavation site in the past, as reported by a local paper and the Guardian, so at least I can come up with a likelier option. They probably were bad people, but vampires – I do not believe so.

However, it seems that the vampire burials are relatively common in eastern Europe where the folk tradition includes undead sucking blood from the living. However, the examples from Bulgaria have had iron rods stuck in their chest, which kind of conforms with the way to kill a vampire. One can only imagine what kind of mass hysteria can break out when for example a mentally ill individual with gum disease or tuberculosis attacks somebody trying to bite them. This kind of situation is perfectly plausible, so with strong superstitious beliefs a community may resort to nasty ways of getting rid of a troublesome individual.

Nevertheless, the undead are now fashionable and different tv series presenting vampires or zombies or both, as Becoming human on BB3 did, are fourteen a dozen. Humans are fascinated by an idea of eternal life and the complexities related in The returned, partly acting as allegories for racism and xenophobia amongst us as In the flesh did. Many archaeologists are looking for their Tutankhamen’s grave – or at least a possibility of gaining media attention and funding for their project.

On a serious note, there seems to be a vampire landscape forming. If these individuals deceased in unusual ways were thought to be vampires in the past, remains unclear. At least the different stories from around Europe, including Italy, reveal the extent and geography of modern contemporary archaeological vampire narratives.

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