Mediaeval 'vampire' skull found near Venice





Scientists 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, said Matteo Borrini of Florence University.

Wedging a rock or brick into the mouth of a suspected vampire was a way of preventing the person from feeding on the bodies of other plague victims and rising from the grave to attack the living, he told a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Denver last week.

The idea that plague victims might also be vampires may have arisen because blood often dribbled from the mouths of those who died from the disease.

The woman's skeleton was found in a mass grave which was established on the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo, in Venice's lagoon, when plague swept the city in 1576.



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