Medieval 'vampire' skull found near Venice
London (PTI): Anthropologists have claimed that a skeleton exhumed from a grave in Italy is an evidence of the medieval fear of "vampires".
A team in Italy has found evidence that the remains of the woman's skull with a rock thrust into its jaws is actually the first known example of the "vampires" widely referred to in contemporary documents, the New Scientist reported.
In fact, the team found the skull, with its mouth agape and a large slab of rock forced into its mouth, while excavating a mass grave dating from the Middle Ages on an island near Venice.
Female "vampires" were often blamed for spreading the plague epidemics through Europe, team leader Matteo Borrini of Florence University said, adding the skull could be the first such "vampire" to have been forensically examined.
"At the time the woman died, many people believed t hat 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," he said.
The skeleton was removed from a mass grave of victims of the Venetian plague of 1576.
Dr Borrini said gravediggers shoved the brick into the woman's mouth with such force that it broke some of her teeth.
"Gravediggers would check corpses for any sign that they had bitten or chewed on their shrouds, a sure sign of vampirism."
Venice was particularly hard hit by the plague -- when a later wave of the Black Death swept through the city between 1630 and 1631, the epidemic killed nearly 50,000 out of the population of 150,000.
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