Deviant burial was a common practice in medieval times and with the expansion of archaeological sites all across the world, we have more and more evidence of deviant burials as means to prevent vampires from leaving their graves and terrorizing villages – in this case, one located in Dorchester!
Back in 2007, research by Wessex Archaeology in Little Keep, Dorchester, revealed the remnants of a roman cemetery. Out of the total of 29 graves found, 5 had evidence of deviant burial.
Deviant burial in Dorchester
While some corpses had been entered face-down, others had been decapitated – with their head placed between their legs at the ankles. In some of the other graves the legs themselves were crossed, however this can be a normal result of the decomposition process and not of a deviant burial.
As per the coins found in the one of the graves, the deviant burial can be placed in the region of 4th century AD and it is possible that the coins were added in an effort to “help” the souls of the departed on their way – I`m referring here to the pagan belief that one would need to pay the ferryman on the river Strix for passage to the afterlife.
Since no reports are available for Dorchester as to any vampire activity in that time, I`m afraid that the deviant burial is all we have to go on, however it`s safe to say that the villagers were convinced that this drastic action had to be taken in order to prevent unwanted nightly visits.
๑۞๑ Related: ๑۞๑
† Vampire Accounts
Back in 1997 Radio Prague had a very nice story to report.
“The archaeological investigation that has been carried out in the presbytery of the Chapel of the Holy Trinity in the Moravian town of Prostejov has brought to light a lucky and spectacular discovery: the tomb of a suspected vampire.
The director of the Archaeological Institute of Brno, Milos Cizmár, emphasizes the fact that the remains of the supposed vampire were discovered inside a coffin which had been secured with forged iron bars to make sure that it would not commit any crimes after its death.
The scientists think that this find must date back to the 16th or 17th Century, and that it demonstrates the fear for vampirism in those days.
When the coffin was opened, the archaeologists recognized the precautions that had been taken by the supposed vampire’s contemporaries to make sure that it would not come out of the coffin: a pile of stones covered the lower part of the legs of the cadaver and its torso had been separated from the rest of the corpse.”
We have no information on the identity of the person buried with this anti-vampire measure. To my knowledge not even a legend surfaced about it.
None the less… someone went to a great deal to prevent the dead from returning from the grave so it is a true vampire account.
The archeological find is legitimate and the number of “vampire graves” that were uncovered all over the Slavic territory is testimony to the fact that the belief in vampires was widespread throughout the Middle Ages in all of Europe.
Methods of dealing with the corpses of the supposed vampires were plenty and the ones exhibited by this particular case aren`t the worst I`ve seen described. The ~Superstitions~ page should give you a good idea on that… along with the ~Vampire Accounts~ page.
Perhaps the reason why people were so scared of the undead was because according to Slavic belief, the vampire could even have sexual relations with his wife and produce a child that would be born without bones. The vampire wouldn`t only attack on a physical base but it would also instill fear in the villagers – so much that they no longer respected the dead and chose to mutilate the corpses of their family members.
๑۞๑ Related: ๑۞๑
† Vampire Accounts
Cesky Krumlow is located in modern day the Czech Republic, near the border with Austria on the territory that in the Middle Ages was known as Bohemia.
The settlement fueled the curiosity of the archeologists because the small village that developed around the sumptuous castle that dominates the region from an incredible platform, has remained intact to the day.
In 2000 when some reconstruction was going on in the Plesivecka Street in Cesky Krumlov, a number of graves was found that were part of one of the older cemeteries that dated back from the 17th or 18th century.
The excavations uncovered a total of 11 skeletons but 3 in particular sparked the interest of the team because of the positioning of the bodies and the orientation of the graves themselves; they were on the N-S axe, rather that the E-V one as it is common in the Christian burial rituals [the orientation that the other 8 shared].
One of the skeletons had the head severed from the rest of the carcass and placed in between the legs and another corpse was pinned to the ground using heavy stones [they were placed on the legs, arms and chest – stones were located even in the mouth].
At a first glance the third skeleton may have seamed intact, but upon closed inspection it was found that it had traces of trauma on the chest – signs of fractures on the ribs [produced by a sharp object].
All these details are consistent with anti-vampire rituals practiced in the Middle Ages to prevent the dead from returning from the grave:
– the first skeleton is that of a man that was decapitated;
– the second skeleton was of a man placed in his tomb and covered with stones to keep him from exiting it; the little ones were to keep him from chewing;
– because his stern was punctured we can safely presume that the heart was the objective of that stake [sharp object].
Using carbon dating methods the team pinned down a more exact date for the bodies, between 1730 and 1750.
By analyzing the records found at the castle we find that in the middle of the 18th century the region was reigned by the von Schwarzenberg family [in 1741 we place the death for princess Eleonore Amalia von Schwarzenberg]
In that timeframe they were able to find records for 3 deaths by suicide.
The Church claims that those that take their own lives give up their shot at redemption and are damned not to find piece… suicide is one of the ways to become a vampire!
It`s a long shot but it`s possible that the 3 skeletons that suffered mutilation for suspected vampirism are those of Paul Haas, Phillip Bauler and a young man that poisoned himself.