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The Odd, the Unusual, and the StrangeBioarchaeological Explorations of Atypical Burials$
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Tracy K. Betsinger, Amy B. Scott, and Anastasia Tsaliki

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781683401032

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9781683401032.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Atypical Burials in Early Medieval Poland

Atypical Burials in Early Medieval Poland

A Critical Overview

(p.246) 13 Atypical Burials in Early Medieval Poland
The Odd, the Unusual, and the Strange

Leszek Gardeła

University Press of Florida

Excavations at early medieval cemeteries in Poland often reveal traces of mortuary behavior which deviate considerably from the normative treatment of the dead. Most of these atypical practices involved interring the corpses in prone position, laying or throwing stones on them, or cutting their heads off, but other variants have also been recorded, e.g., covering the bodies with clay or piercing them with stakes and other sharp objects. Graves of this kind have always been difficult to interpret. In the early twentieth century, Polish scholars only mentioned them briefly in their publications, without offering any detailed commentary about their possible meanings, while in the 1970s, the problematic term “anti-vampire burials” was coined, implying that these were burials of vampires. This article provides a critical overview of past and present studies on atypical burials in Poland by drawing on the results of a research project entitled Bad Death in the Early Middle Ages: Atypical Burials from Poland in a Comparative Perspective. The discussion incorporates new and previously unpublished evidence and a reassessment of archival documentation kept in a range of Polish museums and scientific institutions, which challenges the previously accepted “vampire” interpretation and sophisticates our understanding of unusual funerary phenomena.

Keywords:   Early Middle Ages, Vampire, Poland, Burial, Mortuary behavior

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