15 March 2009

Vampire Burial in Venice

New Scientist reported the discovery last week of the burial of a suspected vampire. Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence found this female skeleton on Lazzaretto Nuovo island in Venice, in a mass burial of plague victims. It was believed that vampires were responsible for helping spread the disease by chewing on their shrouds after death. Bricking up the mouth of the corpse was intended to stop this.

Borrini claims this is the first grave to show evidence of exorcism against vampires. I'm no expert, but that seems to be stretching it. The Bronze Age site of Mikelovice in eastern Bohemia recently yielded a 4,000-year old burial who had been weighed down with large stones to prevent his returning as a revenant - a vampire-fighting custom known from historical contexts in other Celtic cultures. Ahtzib over at Small Things Found also has a nice roundup of studies on the archaeology of vampires, if you crave a little more undeadness to go with your excavations. Can't blame Borrini for enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, but it would be nice if us archaeologists didn't try so often to obliterate other evidence in the interest of getting credit for that "first discovery".

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