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Sun Nov 11, 2012, 05:39 PM

Buried with a stake through a heart: the medieval 'vampire' burial

Buried with a stake through a heart: the medieval 'vampire' burial

New details of one of the few 'vampire' burials reserved for social 'deviants' in early medieval Britain have emerged.

By Telegraph reporters
10:40AM GMT 01 Nov 2012

The discovery of a skeleton found with metal spikes through its shoulders, heart and ankles, dating from 550-700AD and buried in the ancient minster town of Southwell, Notts, is detailed in a new report.

It is believed to be a 'deviant burial', where people considered the 'dangerous dead', such as vampires, were interred to prevent them rising from their graves to plague the living.

In reality, victims of this treatment were social outcasts who scared others because of their unusual behaviour. Only a handful of such burials have been unearthed in the UK.

The discovery is detailed in a new report by Matthew Beresford, of Southwell Archaeology.

More:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9647904/Buried-with-a-stake-through-a-heart-the-medieval-vampire-burial.html

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Reply Buried with a stake through a heart: the medieval 'vampire' burial (Original post)
Judi Lynn Nov 2012 OP
Squinch Nov 2012 #1
dimbear Nov 2012 #2
struggle4progress Nov 2012 #3

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 06:27 PM

1. Why do I LOVE these stories? Thanks Judi Lynn.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 09:06 PM

2. Much more common: skeletons without heads.

Not completely clear why.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 09:38 PM

3. The Dangerous Dead: The Early Medieval deviant burial at Southwell, Nottinghamshire

in a wider context
Matthew Beresford, BA (hons), MA
MB Archaeology Local Heritage Series, Number 3, October 2012

In 1959 Charles Daniels discovered the skeletal remains of an Anglo-Saxon inhumation burial whilst undertaking excavations in preparation for a new school that was to be built on Church Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire. This burial is one of close to two hundred and fifty that have since been unearthed at the Church Street site, but it is also unique. For what Daniels discovered was a deviant burial or, to paraphrase Dr. John Blair, one of the ‘dangerous dead’ (Blair, 2009), because the remains had been ritually staked, with iron nails piercing the shoulders, heart and ankles (Daniels, 1965), a practice that although so far unique to Southwell, is widespread in the early Anglo-Saxon period ...

With this evidence it seems that we could suggest the deviant burial and the disarticulated remains were buried outside the churchyard, or at least in unconsecrated grounds. Pottery fragments found by Daniels seemed to suggest an early 6th century date. Problems with Daniels’ theory arose when in 1971 a watching brief was carried out in the area just to the west of the new school, when construction work was carried out prior to an extension being built. During the work, two hundred and twenty five skeletons were discovered, reflecting that the early Saxon churchyard spread much further to the east than was first envisaged (Alvey, 1975). Supposedly, all but two or three of these were aligned east-west suggesting that this region was certainly inside the consecrated ground. More importantly, perhaps, it meant Daniels’ deviant burial was now amongst standard Christian interments, suggesting there was no clear division. In 2003, another burial and further disarticulated remains were recovered during excavations at South Muskham Prebend (on the opposite side of Church Street), and excavations by the author and the Southwell Community Archaeology Group in July 2011 to the front of Kirkland and Lane Solicitors revealed part of a humerus and rib bone that may also be human. This suggests widespread burial of both intact and disarticulated remains to the east, south-east and quite some way south of the current Minster building ...

... I believe we may well be looking at two, distinct periods of use for the cemetery site, as we have dating evidence for one of the burials to the east (c. mid-8th century) and John Blair (2009, 542) offers evidence that the western burials (or at least some of them) may be earlier ... What we may have, then, is an early sixth- to seventh-century use of the site to which our deviant burials relate (at least four intact with many more disarticulated), followed by a later eighth- to ninth-century use also as a burial site, and then a final period in the tenth- to eleventh-century when the existing Saxon church was demolished to make way for a Norman one, attested to by the masonry and contemporary pottery that has been found in the proposed development area ...

The earliest archaeological evidence for the practice comes from the site of Dolné Vĕstonice in Moravia (c. 27,000BP) where burial DV13, part of a triple burial, had been staked to the ground by having a thick, wooden pole inserted through his thigh and into the ground below. Oldcroghan Man, an Iron Age bog body from Ireland found in 2003 and dating to c. 362-175BC, had both his upper arms pierced with a sharp implement, after which hazel rods were inserted through the holes. Finally, his head had been cut off and he had been partially dismembered (Beresford, in press). Clearly someone wanted to prevent him from returning after death. A final example comes from the Greek island of Lesbos where Professor Hector Williams discovered a burial that had been inserted into the ancient city walls at Metholini, with heavy stones placed over the coffin. Inside the coffin was an adult male aged between 40-50 years old who had been nailed to the coffin with three, twenty centimetre long metal spikes, one through the throat, one through the pelvis and one though the ankles. The parallels to the deviant burial at Southwell are striking. A second burial from Taxiarcus on Lesbos, discovered in 1999, was also buried with metal spikes, but these were simply placed alongside the burial rather than piercing the flesh. Perhaps the presence of the spikes was enough to counteract him returning from death ...

pdf link: http://www.mbarchaeology.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/LHS3%20-%20The%20Dangerous%20Dead.pdf
hattip: http://io9.com/5959045/1500+year+old-english-skeleton-was-ritually-staked-with-iron-nails

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