A find in June in Bulgaria was the latest in weird vampire archaeology discoveries that have happened in the 21st century. That’s right. Vampires. From the looks of things, not the brooding, sparkly stalkers of teenage girls who are currently the stars of stage and screen, but blood-drinking sociopaths, terrifying in life and unstoppable in death. Or so they thought.
The vampire myth is one that runs deep in western culture, and while a lot of other cultures have a version of it, only the western ones fear garlic, need a stake through the heart to kill, and wear capes (though more legends should do that, because capes are boss). I can hear your thoughts, and you’re saying that the dude from Twilight doesn’t wear a cape. Shush.
Anyway, back in 2009, Italian archaeologist Matteo Borrini claimed to have found a woman buried with a brick in her mouth among a number of bodies in a Venice lagoon, which is one of the rites you might use to stop them from becoming a Nachzehrer, or “shroudeater”. It was a controversial find, in part because the brick in the mouth isn’t a practice of Italian origin and, as you might’ve guessed from the name, Nachzeherer are from Germany, not Italy. Still, the media ran with it, and we got the Venice Vampire. National Geographic did a piece on it, with a url that I can’t not share. Find it at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/02/100226-vampires-venice-plague-skull-witches/. Venice Plague Skull Witches is the name of my Slayer cover band’s cover band.
But this would be disappointing if it were just about a controversial find from three years ago. Let’s fast forward to June, when a body dating back over seven hundred years was found in the Bulgarian town of Sozopol, with its eye teeth removed and an iron rod jammed through it’s chest, because Eastern European vampires apparently just chew up bricks and spit them out. You can find the National Geographic article here at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/07/pictures/120724-vampire-skeleton-toothless-bulgaria-science/. Toothless Bulgaria Science is my Thomas Dolby cover band, by the way. The iron rod is supposed to keep the person from climbing out of their grave, a sort of nail that pins them to the earth. Wait, did I say one? The Daily Mail reports two that are almost eight hundred years old. Still, two isn’t bad, that’s like the Sith, master and apprentice. But the head of the Bulgarian National History Museum, Bozhidar Dimitrov, says there and in this article that over a hundred such skeletons have been found over the years. Bulgaria has a vampire problem, it seems.
Although, “has” doesn’t seem to be the right word for it. These are all graves, after all. People have been putting down these vampires for hundreds of years. In Venice, in Bulgaria, oh yeah, and in Ireland, according to this article from 2011. The romantic in me wants to imagine dashing adventurers and Van Helsing style badasses running all over Europe dismantling vampires, but the unfortunate truth is that it’s probably villagers terrified by plague or misfortune, looking for scapegoats.Still, it’s an interesting part of history, and can impart a sense of timelessness when looking at how fixated on vampires our culture is even today. Some things that go bump in the night never go away, no matter how deep you bury them.
Jim Tigwell is a freelance writer currently pursuing his Master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Waterloo, specializing in philosophy of social media, games, and professional ethics. He is the creator of Concept Crucible, a blog focusing on applying philosophy to everyday life. You can find him on Twitter as @ConceptCrucible, or on Steam.