Image of skeletal remains of female 'vampire' found in Poland
ScienceAlert | Mirosław Blicharski

Archaeologists Find Remains Of 'Vampire' Buried With Sickle Around Neck

The myth of the vampire is a well-worn horror trope that everybody knows. But where did the idea of these immortal, bloodthirsty monsters come from? What's with the garlic? How about the stake through the heart?

There are various answers to these questions, and a recent archaeological find has revealed even more details on where the notion of vampires really comes from.

Vlad the Impaler might be the O.G. vampire.

Painting of Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler
Wikimedia Commons | Anonymous

Vlad Tepes was the ruler of what is now Romania in the 15th century, and his penchant for torture led to the Romanian folkloric myth of blood-sucking vampires.

Of course, Vlad the Impaler was a person, not an immortal demon, but his reputation for cruelty has persisted into the modern age.

Bram Stoker invented the modern vampire.

Author Bram Stoker
Wikimedia Commons | Unidentified photographer

Dracula, publiushed in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, was a nuanced novel in many ways. But it's best remembered for setting up the modern idea of what a vampire is: the blood-sucking, light-averse shapeshifters we all know today.

Archaeologists dug up a grisly find in Poland.

Satellite imagery showing Pien, Poland
Google Maps | Google

Researchers were digging at a cemetery in the village of Pień when they came across the grave of a woman who'd died sometime in the 17th century. Of note was the strange way in which she'd been buried.

She was buried with a sickle covering her neck.

Image of skeletal remains of female 'vampire' found in Poland
ScienceAlert | Mirosław Blicharski

The sickle across the neck is in line with folkloric beliefs that have been transferred to the vampire myth. It was put in place with the idea that it would prevent the dead from rising from their graves.

It wasn't the only unusual detail.

Image of skeletal remains of female 'vampire' found in Poland
ScienceAlert | Mirosław Blicharski

The remains were buried with a fancy silk headdress with gold or silver thread as detailing. This indicates that the deceased woman belonged to a high social class, even if she was buried with a sickle across her neck.

There was also a padlock on her foot.

Image of skeletal remains of female 'vampire' found in Poland
ScienceAlert | Mirosław Blicharski

The reason for putting the padlock here was probably similar to the reason for placing the sickle across her neck: it's there to keep the dead in the ground and prevent them from rising up.

Poland had a bit of a vampire epidemic around this time.

Gif shows grin, revealing vampire fangs
Giphy |

In the 17th century, graves like this became more common as the myth of people rising from their graves grew. Bodies were sometimes bound to their graves, or in more extreme cases, burnt or smashed with stones.

It isn't known why these myths were so prevalent.

"Vampire" buried with sickle across its neck
ScienceAlert | Amy Scott

A 2018 study that analyzed the chemical composition of these 'vampire' burials posited that they may have died of a cholera epidemic — and, in death, they were blamed for causing the infectious disease. One thing the study did reveal is that, in most cases, these 'vampires' were locals.

It's a fascinating glimpse into the past.

A human skull
Unsplash | Meg Jerrard

If you ever feel despondent about modern times, just be thankful that people aren't suspecting their neighbors of being vampires anymore.

Let us know what you think of this story in the comments.

h/t: ScienceAlert