Recently, an archaeological dig near Venice, Italy turned up a female skeleton with a brick wedged in the mouth. Forensic archaeologist and anthropologist Matteo Borrini suggested that this unusual finding indicates that her neighbors must have believed she was a vampire since the brick could be part of an ancient vampire-slaying ritual. It was felt that if you forced a an object such as a brick into the mouth of the vampire they could no longer feed on the blood they needed and would therefore starve to death. That makes sense to me. I imagine it’s hard to bite someone’s neck if you have a brick in your mouth.
Why was this woman believed to be a vampire or for that matter why was anyone labeled this way? It’s possible that some of the ancient vampire stories come from the paucity of knowledge about body decomposition. As a body decays, the stomach contents, the lungs and other organs in the body, and the brain tissue begins to break down. This turns into a blackish liquid that will come out the nose and the mouth. We call these purge fluids. These very dark liquids, even today, can be mistaken for old blood and confused with pre-mortem traumatic injuries. Back then, it is easy to see that people might believe this to be evidence that the person had been a blood drinker.
The excavation where this unfortunate woman’s exhumation occurred was a 16th century burial ground where many victims of the black plague that hit Venice in 1576 were laid to rest. As the body count climbed, grave sites would be reopened so that more bodies could be dumped into the same site. Perhaps the burial party saw these purge fluids on some of the corpses and believed that they must have been vampires, who were now, in death, regurgitating their bloody meals.
Somehow this doesn’t conger up images of Sookie Stackhouse or Bella Swan.