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'Vampire graves' uncovered in Poland

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Vampires are fun to read about and see in the movies - but there was a time when they were believed to be real and rural villages held them in great fear. Archaeologists have now unearthed what they believe to be a vampire burial ground in Poland.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Graves containing four decapitated skeletons, their heads placed between their legs were found near the southern town of Gliwice. Removing the head of a suspected vampire was common practice in medieval times as it was thought to be the only way to ensure the dead stay dead.

The archaeologists say that apart from being headless, there was no trace of any earthly possessions, such as jewelry, belts or buckles.

"It's very difficult to tell when these burials were carried out,' archaeologist Dr Jacek Pierzak told local newspapers. The remains have been sent out for further testing. Initial estimates suggest the suspected bloodsuckers died sometime around the 16th century.
 
It comes a year after archaeologists in Bulgaria claimed to have discovered two "vampire" corpses in excavations near a monastery in the Black Sea town of Sozopol. In that case, the 800-year-old remains were pierced through the chest with heavy iron rods.

Bulgaria's national museum chief Bozidhar Dimitrov said as many as 100 such "vampire corpses" have been found in the country in recent years. "They illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century," he explained.

Today, fears of vampires remain real threat for many villagers in some of the most remote communities of Eastern Europe. Garlic and crucifixes are readily wielded and bodies are exhumed in order for a stake to be driven through the suspected vampire's heart.

The vampire legend goes back thousands of years and was common in many ancient cultures, where tales of these reviled creatures of the dead abounded.

Archaeologists recently found 3,000 Czech graves where bodies had been weighed down with rocks to prevent the dead emerging from their tombs.

For some, vampires became the antithetical opposite of Jesus Christ - evil creatures resurrected from the dead who spilled blood only to feed their thirst.

In medieval times, the fear of vampires was omnipresent. In some cases, the dead were buried with a brick wedged in their mouths to stop them rising up to eat those who had perished from the plague.

Vampire folklore largely flourished in Eastern European countries and Greece, where they did not have a tradition of believing in witches. The vampire, much like a witch, became a scapegoat for the community's ills.

The "civilized" world came to learn of vampires in the 18th century as Western empires expanded and their peoples traveled to remote parts of Central and Eastern Europe.

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