Vampire Found in Italy

An exhumation of a mass grave of plague victims in Venice, Italy yielded the skeleton of a woman who was probably considered a vampire in her time. She was buried with a brick in her mouth. The skeleton was found by Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence.
At the time the woman died, many people believed that the plague was spread by "vampires" which, rather than drinking people's blood, spread disease by chewing on their shrouds after dying. Grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop them doing this, Borrini says.

The belief in vampires probably arose because blood is sometimes expelled from the mouths of the dead, causing the shroud to sink inwards and tear. Borrini, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Denver, Colorado, last week, claims this might be the first such vampire to have been forensically examined. The skeleton was removed from a mass grave of victims of the Venetian plague of 1576.

Link -via Digg

(image credit: Matteo Borrini)

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Although Dr Borrini's discovery is interesting, he will need to support it with archaeological, anthropological, forensic and literary facts. I have devoted my PhD research and career in the study of unusual burials, including the so-called 'vampire burials', and the standards required to prove such cases are very high and demanding (see e.g. I have never heard of the tradition of placing a brick in the mouth, so a scientific bibliographic reference by Dr Borrini would be most welcome . On the photo, it is not clear that this is a brick and not a stone either.

In addition, Dr Borrini is mistaken to claim that this is 'the first such "vampire" to have been forensically examined'. I had presented a paper on the subject at a conference in Chieti, Italy, in 2000 and subsequently published it in 2001: It is a fact that there have been previous such cases discovered and examined by e.g. Dr Sledzik and Dr Bellantoni in New England in 1994, Prof. Hector Williams and Dr Sandra Garvie-Lok in Greece in the late '80s and myself in Greece during my PhD research.
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