Two skeletons have been recovered in Ireland that suggest the ancients were just as scared of the walking dead as we are.
The bones, which date back to the 8th century, are almost entirely intact and would be otherwise unremarkable examples of decomposed bodies, except that the duo has had large stones forcibly inserted into their mouths.
Discovery News reports:
The "deviant burials" were comprised of two men who were buried there at different times in the 700s.
One of the men was between 40 and 60 years old, and the other was a young adult, probably between 20 and 30 years old. The two men were laid side by side and each had a baseball-sized rock shoved in his mouth.
"One of them was lying with his head looking straight up. A large black stone had been deliberately thrust into his mouth," Chris Read, head of Applied Archaeology at IT Sligo, said.
"The other had his head turned to the side and had an even larger stone wedged quite violently into his mouth so that his jaws were almost dislocated," he added.
Archeologists aren't entirely unfamiliar with this practice. Stones have been found in the mouths of other ancient corpses, but in those instances, it was always in an effort to prevent the body from rising as a vampire. At the time these bodies were buried, there was no such mythology in place (vampires don't appear in lore until the 1500s), so researchers believe that these particular corpses were suspected of being your normal, run-of-the-mill shambling undead.
More specifically, these two dead men are suspected of being criminals who society feared might continue their evil ways beyond the grave. In ancient Irish folklore, after a person dies, their soul escapes through the mouth, leaving an empty vessel. If the spirit (or another evil spirit) were to return to the body, it could reanimate it for all kinds of nefarious purposes. By jamming a big rock in a dead body's mouth, you seal off the corpse from intrusion by any vagrant ghosts.
It's also important to note that this image of one of the skeletons shows a body whose skull has been completely caved in. Perhaps this is the work of the elements and a millennia of being entombed beneath the earth, or perhaps 8th-century Irish farmers knew exactly how to deal with the undead.
Source: Discovery News