‘Vampire’ grave shows 17th-century fear of women who ‘didn’t fit in’
A sharp sickle was placed across her neck, ready to decapitate her should she jolt awake after death, and a padlock was put around her big toe.
That’s what scientists found when they excavated the corpse of a woman they believe was suspected of being a vampire in 17th-century Poland.
The unnamed woman — thought to be young and of a high social class, given that she was buried in a silk scarf — was probably accused of being supernatural because she stood out, experts said. A large protruding tooth may provide some clues.
A professor from Poland’s Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun said burials involving a sickle are extremely unusual. Archaeologists from the universitymade the discovery in the southern village of Pien in the Eastern European nation last month and published their findings this week.
“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 Polinski, who led the research team, told The Washington Post. Instead, in this case, a sharp scythe is “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.”
The woman’s exhumed remains are now being studied by Polinski’s team.
Her burial reveals “paranoia” and “fear” around vampires — and the “gender politics” at the time, Stacey Abbott, author of “Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st Century,” told The Washington Post on Wednesday.