Among the many medieval plague victims recently unearthed near Venice, Italy, one reportedly had never-before-seen evidence of an unusual affliction: being “undead.”
The partial body and skull of the woman showed her jaw forced open by a brick (above) — an exorcism technique used on suspected vampires.
It’s the first time that archaeological remains have been interpreted as belonging to a suspected vampire, team leader Matteo Borrini, a forensic archaeologist at the University of Florence, told National Geographic News.
“I was lucky. I [didn't] expect to find a vampire during my excavations,” he said. Belief in vampires was rampant in the Middle Ages, mostly because the process of decomposition was not well understood.
For instance, as the human stomach decays, it releases a dark “purge fluid.” This bloodlike liquid can flow freely from a corpse’s nose and mouth, so it was apparently sometimes confused with traces of vampire victims’ blood.