The skeleton of a woman who was possibly buried with anti-vampire rituals in the 17th century was unearthed in Poland by researchers from the Nicholas Copernicus University in Toruń.
Polish media reported the discovery of a one-of-a-kind burial at a medieval cemetery in the village of Pien, where a female skeleton was found with a sickle across the neck and a closed padlock attached to the big toe of her left foot.
Local experts said the unusual burial practice could be interpreted as an effort to prevent the deceased woman’s return from the dead as a vampire.
Vampire superstitions in medieval Poland
According to Professor Dariusz Poliński, head of the excavation, the morbid find was an unusual example of anti-witchcraft practice.
“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,” he told The First News.
However, in this instance, a different technique that had never before been seen on Polish soil was used: “It was 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 Professor added that the locked padlock on the skeleton’s big toe on the left foot symbolizes “the closing of a stage and the impossibility of returning.”
Nonetheless, the woman had been buried with great care and was of high social status, as indicated by the silk cap found on her remains. A silk cap was a very expensive item to own in her times.
An early medieval cemetery at Pien was first excavated between 2005 to 2009, Polish media said.
Archeologists returned in August 2022 to resume excavations at the same site and at the nearby 17th century cemetery, where the feared vampire’s skeleton was unearthed on the last day of the excavation project.