The remains of a “female vampire” have been uncovered by archaeologists at a 17th-century graveyard in Pień, Poland.
Professor Dariusz Poliński and a team of researchers from Nicolaus Copernicus University were conducting the dig when they discovered the skeletal remains of the woman, who had been pinned to the ground with a sickle across her throat. The popular farming tool was commonly used by superstitious Poles in the 1600s to try and restrain a deceased person thought to be a vampire so that they would be unable to return from the dead.
“The sickle was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had tried to get up… the head would have been cut off or injured,” Poliński told the Daily Mail.
The professor also noted that the dead woman had a padlock wrapped around her toe — further strengthening the theory that she was considered a vampire at the time of her death. Poliński claimed the lock would have been used during the burial process to symbolize “the impossibility of returning.”
The researchers did not disclose the presumed age of the deceased but said a silk cap found on her skull indicates that she was of high social status. According to Smithsonian magazine, residents across Eastern Europe initially became fearful of vampires in the 11th century, believing that “some people who died would claw their way out of the grave as blood-sucking monsters that terrorized the living.”
By the 17th century, “unusual burial practices became common across Poland in response to a reported outbreak of vampires,” Science Alert reported.
There is still no scholarly consensus around how people came to be classified as “vampires,” but they were often violently executed across various parts of the continent, according to Poliński.