Saturday 8 May 2010

Another 'vampire' skeleton found

Javier Arries has kindly pointed me to news from Radio Prague concerning a recent archaeological discovery of a skeleton in Hrádek nad Nisou (known in German as Grottau) in the Czech Republic close to the borders to both Germany and Poland

Archeologists in Hrádek nad Nisou are excited about an archeological find uncovered during street repair work in the city centre. Workers digging under the surface of the cobbled street came upon a grave just 20 centimeter below the surface. The skeleton was that of a woman dating around 1310. She was found lying head down with a handful of coins clasped in her hand.

Her position and the location of the grave suggests that she was either considered a witch or a vampire or suffered from a severe physical anomaly and was buried far from the local cemetery in order to prevent her coming back to haunt or harm members of the local community after her death. The skeleton is reported to be surprisingly well preserved given how shallow the grave was and archeologists are hoping to glean much more from the remains. When the research is over the skeleton will be displayed at the local museum.

A couple of news stories in the native language with a few photos can be found here and here, including a close up of the skull. But you should go to this site to watch a TV news story on the vampire (upir), showing both the skeleton and views of the excavations!

Apparently, the five coins found in her hand date from the years 1310-30, and that is why the find is estimated to be from that period. If we should hazard to assume that the body was actually buried in this fashion to prevent it from returning to harm the living, the find is contemporary to the shepherd from Blov and the 'witch' from Levin, the most famous cases of magia posthuma before the 17th and 18th centuries. Both cases were located in the same part of Europe, which makes this find more interesting than the skeleton found in Venice a couple of years ago. Still, I think it pertinent to be sceptical when reading these sensational news stories of supposed 'vampires'.

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