Zombies and vampire: Researchers at Sligo college unearth 1300-year-old mystery
ARCHAEOLOGISTS at IT Sligo have suggested that two skeletons buried around 1300 years ago with large stones wedged into their mouths were buried in this way to stop them rising from their graves to haunt the living.
Such burials are associated with vampires and also with the 'walking dead' or 'revenants' such as zombies or ghosts, who were believed to come back among the living unless steps were taken to contain them in their graves.
The skeletons, both male, were found side by side in a historic site overlooking Lough Key and according to Chris Read, lecturer of Applied Archaeology at IT Sligo, this is the only discovery of its kind in Ireland, according to the Sligo Champion.
There is a known tradition of revenants in Irish folklore and indeed it has been suggested that Bram Stoker got the inspiration for Dracula, not from a Romanian folk tale, but from an Irish legend about an evil chieftan who had to be killed three times after he came back looking for a bowl of bood to sustain him.
Mr. Read, with his colleague Dr. Thomas Finan from St. Louis University, U.S.A., excavated 137 skeletons from a site at Kilteasheen, Knockvicar, Roscommon, during a series of digs from 2005 to 2009, in a project funded by the Royal Irish Academy. The archaeologists believe that there were close to 3,000 skeletons on the site spanning the centuries from 700 to 1400.
The two skeletons with stones in their mouths were not buried at the same time in the 8th century. This puts them outside the time frame for vampiers, a phenomenon which emerged in European folklore around the 1500's.
The remarkable discovery featured in a British Channel 5 documentary last week and is to be broadcast on the National Geographic channel early next year.
"One of the skeletons was lying with his head looking straight up and a large black stone had been deliberately thurst into his mouth while the other had his head turned to the side and had an even larger stone wedged violently into his mouth so that his jaws were almost dislocated," he explained.
Mr. Read and a colleague, osteo archaeologist, Dr. Catriona McKenzie, carried out detailed tests on the skeletons at IT Sligo this summer
He stressed that the revenant theory would be impossible to prove absolutely, but said there was no doubt that the skeletons had been subjected to 'deviant burials' which are sometimes associated with demonic possession.