The remains of a six-year-old child who the community feared would come back to life as a vampire have been discovered in Poland partially exhumed with half of the body missing, archaeologists say.
The 17th-century Polish cemetery in the village of Pien came under particular scrutiny this week after it was revealed that several bodies had been dug up using “anti-ghost” protection methods.
Myths surrounding the undead and vampires date back to the 11th century in Eastern Europe, and it is not uncommon for skeletons bearing the marks of these superstitions to be exhumed.
In Eastern Europe, stories of people dying and then returning to the living world several months later were commonplace and were often blamed on sudden deaths, accidents, or even generally making life more difficult – like being held responsible for a bad harvest.
But the discovery of a small child skeleton treated in this way would be the first of its kind.
The remains of a “female vampire” pinned to the ground with a sickle across her throat and a padlocked toe to “prevent her from returning from the dead” have also been found in a village in Poland.
Researchers discovered the remains during archaeological work in a 17th-century cemetery in the village of Pien (photo)
The child, aged around six, was discovered buried face down, so that if he woke up he would bite the ground rather than suck blood from the people above them. Times reports.
His foot was also held in a padlock, which could have made his exit from the grave more difficult, or symbolized the “closing of a stage” and made the child’s return impossible.
But archaeologists also discovered that after burial, the body was partially exhumed and the upper half removed, presumably for destruction.
Professor Dariusz Poliński, a team leader at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in the nearby town of Torun, told The Times that the child was clearly “very much feared”.
He continued: “The reason for such a brutal and disgusting burial is unknown.”
The grim discovery was made in the same cemetery as a woman who was buried with a scythe pressed to her neck – a way to ensure she would decapitate herself if she tried to rise from the dead, according to experts.
Professor Poliński previously told MailOnline: ‘Ways to protect against the return of the dead include cutting off the head or legs, placing the deceased face down to bite them into the ground, burning them and crush with a stone.
“The sickle was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had attempted to get up, the head would probably have been cut off or injured.”
Researchers also discovered that the skeletal remains wore a silk cap on her head, indicating that she had high social status, and a protruding tooth.
Professor Dariusz Poliński, team leader from Nicolaus Copernicus University, said: “Ways to protect against the return of the dead include cutting off the head or legs, placing the deceased face down to bite them in the ground, burning it and crushing it with a stone. ‘
The grim discovery was made in the same cemetery as a woman who was buried with a scythe pressed to her neck – a way to ensure she would decapitate herself if she tried to rise from the dead, people said the experts.
In a similar way to the witch trials, the myths surrounding the return of blood-sucking ghosts haunting the local population have caused significant hysteria in parts of Europe – and even led to the execution of innocent people suspected of be vampires.
Those who died and were considered at risk of returning were often buried in cemeteries far from the main settlements.
Professor Poliński said this could include people who died without baptism or those who committed suicide.
They might also have experienced particularly violent deaths or experienced frightening symptoms of mental illness or serious illnesses.
Methods of ensuring they remained dead included placing a scythe on the body, burning it, or even poking and decapitating it.
In 2015, archaeologists in the village of Drewsko, 210 kilometers away, discovered five skeletons buried in the same way in a 400-year-old cemetery.
Sickles were found pressed against the throats of an adult male aged 35 to 44 and an adult female aged 35 to 39.
An older woman, aged 50 to 60 when she died, was buried with a sickle resting on her hips and a medium-sized stone near her throat.