This past summer, a burial site was discovered in Poland containing the bodies of four suspected vampires: their heads had been decapitated and set between their legs, a common Medieval practice of preventing the undead from rising.
Just a few days ago, news broke of yet another freshly unearthed vampire grave. This one was found in Bulgaria by a team of archeologists led by Professor Nikolai Ovcharov.
They exhumed the skeletal remains of a 35-40 year old man. Coins found at the site indicate the time of burial was either in the 13th or 14 century. Carbon dating will eventually provide a more accurate estimation.
Of note is the method in which this particular vampire was pinned to his grave. A metal plowshare – an agricultural cutting tool – was driven straight through the man’s left shoulder, literally forcing his collar bone to pop out.
This is only the second time a suspected vampire has been found with a plowshare staked through them. Last year, Professor Ovcharov made a similar discovery in Sozopol, an ancient Bulgarian town off the coast of the Black Sea.
The Sozopol graves yielded two bodies – both men, both with stakes driven into their chests. An iron plowshare was found piercing the chest of one of the suspected vampires. That particular corpse had been buried near the apse of a church, a special practice reserved for noblemen. This corpse became known as the “Sozopol Vampire.”
Bulgarian historians eventually came to believe the Sozopol Vampire was in fact one of the town’s medieval mayors, a man by the name of Krivich. A well-known bandit with a history of piracy before his political career, Krivich was also a member of the local nobility, which explains the location of his burial.
Pirate, vampire, politician – what’s the difference?
On a more serious note, many of these vampire burials have contained aristocrats, intellectuals, clerics, and civil leaders.
There is good reason why Bram Stoker made Dracula a Count rather than a simple peasant. It seems men of wealth, power, and status were thought to be especially vulnerable to becoming vampires. Why?
One theory posits that if such men abused their influence in life, they would be denied entrance to Heaven. As a result, their souls would remains trapped in their bodies, doomed to consist on the blood of the living.
Another theory, supported by Professor Ovcharov, maintains that vampire burials were not a means of punishment but rather protection. It was believed that for the first forty days after death, a soul could fall victim to the forces of evil. Such precautions – like staking the limbs or severing the head – prevented any demonic tampering.
Regardless of whichever theory is true, it seems only a matter of time before more vampire graves are unearthed. With each macabre find, we learn a little bit more about how far our ancestors went to protect themselves against this supernatural predator.