The remains of a female "vampire" have been unearthed by archaeologists at a cemetery in Poland, researchers announced this week.
The Polish researchers came across the remains of a woman with a sickle around her neck and a triangular padlock on her foot at a gravesite in the village of Pień. The farming tool, according to ancient beliefs, was supposed to prevent a deceased person thought to be a vampire from returning from the dead.
The research team, led by Professor Dariusz Polinski of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, made the unique discovery in late August.
In an interview with the Polish Press Agency PAP, Magdalena Zagrodzka, who represented the research team, said the human remains also had a silk headdress, which was woven with gold or silver thread. While the padlock and sickle are linked to 17th-century superstitions, Zagrodzka said the cap is evidence of the high social status of the deceased.
Zagrodzka said that the sickle and padlock "may have protected against the return of the deceased, which was probably feared. In this context, these practices can be considered so-called anti-vampiric." The farming tool was placed with the blade on the neck. It was believed that such an arrangement would cause the head to be cut if the deceased tried to "get up."
This type of practice became common throughout Poland in the 17th century, as a response to a reported vampire epidemic. Polanski explained that in addition to practices with a sickle, sometimes corpses were burned, smashed with stones or had their heads and legs cut off.
Experts are planning further research at the cemetery, aided by new technologies for surveying the area. In addition, researchers from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Krakow will conduct DNA testing on the remains to learn more about the deceased woman.
In an interview with CBS News, Polinski said the find left him speechless.
"Such a discovery, especially here in Poland, is astonishing, especially now — centuries later," he said. "Pure astonishment."
This is not the first such discovery in the country. Archaeologists led by Lesley Gregoricka of the University of South Alabama in the United States found six so-called "vampire skeletons" at a cemetery in northwest Poland in 2014.
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