Archaeologists excavating the site of future road construction near the town of Gliwice in Silesia, southern Poland, discovered four skeletons buried with their heads between their knees. Stones were placed on the skulls. Further digging unearthed another nine skeletons buried with their heads out of place. Eleven were found with the skull between the legs, one with skull between the hands, two with the skull perched directly on the shoulders. Most of the skeletons found buried this way appear to be female.
Putting the head anywhere but on top of the neck was a common folk practice in Slavic countries for ensuring that the dead would not rise from the grave to harry the living. The idea was that if the dead person attempted to rise, without her head in place she wouldn’t be able to see his victims or even coordinate the climb out of the grave. Other practices — binding feet and hands, pressing with a heavy boulder, pinning the body to the ground by embedding an object in the chest — were also used to ensure the undead would not be able to budge.
Fear of vampirism is not the only possible explanation for the burials, however. There was a gallows near the site of the graveyard. In the Middle Ages, the executed were sometimes left to hang until their corpses rotted and the head disconnected from the body. The decomposed body would then be buried with the head deliberately not placed atop the neck because convicts didn’t deserve a decent burial. That’s not mutually exclusive with the vampirism hypothesis. Locals would have good reason to ensure those executed and left to rot didn’t come back to seek revenge. The deceased might also have been victims of a mass killing — a battle or slaughtered civilians — during the turbulent times of the early Middle Ages, or of a cholera epidemic.
There were no grave goods, not even the remains of clothing like buttons, in the initial discoveries that could give an idea of when they were buried. The ritual was in regular use in Poland from the arrival of Christianity in the 10th century until the First World War (the last known vampire burial in Poland took place in the east-central village of Old Mierzwice in 1914), so that doesn’t help narrow it down. Finally on Thursday, July 18th, archaeologists found a female skeleton buried with two small artifacts. They may be the key to dating these burials. Her bones were also charred, indicating deliberating burning.
Researchers are analyzing the remains now which will hopefully pinpoint a burial date and possible causes of death. Osteological examination has already returned extraordinary results: the eye sockets are much larger than average while the nasomaxillary area (the part between the nose and the upper jaw) is narrower than average. This would have given them a cat-like appearance, a genetic mutation that suggests the deceased are related and that might explain why this group of people were seen as dangerous by their community.
11 thoughts on “Cat people vampire burials found in Poland”
Ugh ! … ‘Cat people vampire burials found in Poland’ ? :skull:
It is obvious that not a single Pole was found in one of these ribcages. Moreover, what is actually so wrong about FIRST carbodating the bones, and also finding out about their relationship(s) and origin(s) ? What were the ‘two small artifacts’ ? These bones seem to be in remarkably good shape. The seemingly strong built individual from the big picture appears to have been -with or without lower legs- earthed in something like a coffin. Many of the other skeletons, on the other hand, lie in a remarkable disarray.
Was that pit at the date(s) of burial after all part of Poland ? Were these individuals Catholic, or were they maybe more likely anabaptists from Mongolia, or whatever ? Ok, there are bones, stones and severed heads, but what does all this tell us at this point ? Just look who, according to latest news, got his head back – after a mere fourty thousend years ! — P.S.: Meouw !
I had to rely on web translation to read the Polish-language sources which were the only ones to cover the recent cat people/artifact finds, and unfortunately the description of the artifacts was impenetrable. One was called a “bead buckle” (belt buckle? beaded shoe buckle? brooch?) and the other word didn’t translate at all.
Decapitation of this sort occurs in other contexts. It was quite common in Late Roman Britain, for example, and perhaps also in other parts of western Europe at that time. It might be connected with the liberating of the soul as much as preventing the dead from rising. I suspect the practice can be paralleled from many other places.
I’m not aware of decapitation as a standard burial practice in Late Roman Britain. Do you have any sources?
That’s pretty fascinating stuff. I’d never even considered the possibility of anti-undead measures in burial techniques. Amazing.
I never cease to be amazed by how enduring these practices were. They were in active use for a millennium!
Is it wrong that I really, really anticipate the facial reconstructions?
If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. I almost waited to post to the story until the facial reconstructions were done, but I couldn’t resist the B-movie theme of vampire cat people.
I am very interested to hear if there will be more to this story and how the reconstruction of the skull features of the skeletons will go.
My grand parents, from both parents, are from Galicia..Rybnik to be exact, and it seems Giwice, Selesia, is very close to where they came from. We don’t have any “cat” features in my family but two of my aunts had flat noses which was probably a throwback from the Mongolian invasions.
I think there are probably a lot of superstitions and fears of earlier and maybe ancient times that still continue with people who live in certain areas of Poland today.
I once saw a documentary in which a Greek Catholic Priest was blessing the wood burning cooking stoves of the farms of early Canadian immigrant families of Polish/Ukrainian decent to drive out potential demons that might be dwelling within; hopefully we are making progress in that area. LOL.
Oh man, somebody needs to write a horror movie about a demon-haunted stove. Some of those big cast iron wood-burning cookers are downright terrifying even without being possessed.
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