Archaeologists get their teeth into 'vampire grave'
Archaeologists believe they have found a vampire grave on a construction site in the south of Poland.
Skeletons were found with their heads removed and placed on their legs, indicating they had been subjected to an execution ritual designed to ensure that the dead stayed dead.
An individual accused of being a vampire in Europe's distant past faced a grim fate. Sometimes they would be decapitated, otherwise they might be hanged from a gibbet until decomposition resulted in the head separating from the body.
In both cases, the head was then laid on the legs of the victim in the hope that an inability to locate their head would hinder those intent on rising from the grave.
Historians say that the practice was common in the Slavic lands during the decades following the adoption of Christianity by pagan tribes.
The remains were found on the construction site of a ring road near the town of Gliwice, and came as a surprise to archaeologists more accustomed to finding the human detritus of the bloody fighting of World War II.
When the bodies were buried is open to speculation.
Jacek Pierzak, one of the archaeologists on the site, said the skeletons were found with no jewellery, belt buckles, buttons or anything that could aid the task of determining their age.
Unlike the classic Bram Stoker image of a caped, bloodsucking aristocrat, the definition of a vampire in the Middle Ages was far broader.
Even people who abided by old pagan customs and left food on the graves of dead relations could fall foul of accusations of vampirism, and suffer a prompt execution. (© Daily Telegraph, London)