Deviant burials discovered in western Poland

Three Medieval deviant burials were discovered by archaeologists in Górzyca, West Poland. The burials were found at the edge of the Medieval cemetery with the human remains bearing signs of post-mortem mutilation.

Burial with relocated bones (by Krzysztof Socha)
Burial with relocated bones (by Krzysztof Socha)

The burials were found near the edge of a Medieval cemetery that functioned by the seat of the bishops of Lebus. In recent years archaeologists studied few tens of graves dated to the 13th and 14th centuries. Most of them were typical with the body interred in anatomical position with hands along the body or placed on the chest. Such graves were oriented on the East-West axis with the head pointing West and face turned to East. But the recently discovered burials are atypical and, according to the archaeologists provide evidence for post mortem mutilations, possibly connected with so-called anti-vampiric activities and beliefs.

Burial with relocated bones (by Krzysztof Socha)
Burial with relocated bones (by Krzysztof Socha)

In two burials the bones were not places in anatomical order – they were moved around, for instance the left leg was switched with the right one. This might indicate that the individual was moved after the original burial to a new place by the edge of the graveyard. In two cases the heads were chopped off, and by one individual a puncture hole was found within a vertebra, at another one in the sacrum bone.  Two of the individuals, a man and a woman, had clear signs of bone pathologies. The woman must have been permanently bent forward, suffering from kyphosis, and there are indications that the man was possibly too. The woman’s face was directed towards the ground and her knees were probably broken.

Puncture hole in the vertebra (by Krzysztof Socha)
Puncture hole in the vertebra (by Krzysztof Socha)

Third of the deviant burials also carried signs of puncturing the spine with a sharp object. The head was places between two large stones. This is said to be a typical action connected with the belief of stopping the dead of rising from the dead, or so-called anti-vampiric manipulation of the burial. The bones of all the individuals are scheduled for further bioarchaeological analysis.

Overview of a skeleton with two stones by the head (by Krzysztof Socha)
Overview of a skeleton with two stones by the head (by Krzysztof Socha)
Two stones put by the head (by Krzysztof Socha)
Two stones put by the head (by Krzysztof Socha)

(after Krzysztof Socha & Nauka w Polsce)

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