The skeleton of the young woman was unearthed late last month in the village of Pień, near Ostromecko, in the Polish administrative district of Gmina Dąbrowa Chełmińska. According to the archaeologists — who hail from the Nicolaus Copernicus University (NCU) in Toruń — her grave dates back to the 17th century. The woman appears to have been buried with a silk cap on her head — suggesting that she held a high social status.
The experts also reported, however, that the skeleton was interred with a sickle placed on her neck and a padlock on the big toe of her left foot.
Lead archaeologist Professor Dariusz Poliński told USA TODAY: “It can be assumed that, for some reason, those burying the woman were afraid that she would rise from the grave.”
“Perhaps they feared she was a vampire,” he quipped.
Tales of vampires — undead creatures that feed on the blood or vital essence of the living — recorded in folklore originated in Eastern Europe during the late 17th and 18th centuries.
In fact, it is not uncommon in the region to find burials in which a metal rod or stake was hammered through the skulls of the deceased, as to ensure they actually stayed dead.
Prof. Poliński told MailOnline that other ways to protect against the return of the dead “include cutting off the head or legs, placing the deceased face down to bite into the ground, burning them, and smashing them with a stone.
“The sickle was not laid flat but placed on the neck in such a way that if the deceased had tried to get up most likely the head would have been cut off or injured.”
The addition of the padlock to the woman’s left foot, he added, likely symbolised “the closing of a stage and the impossibility of returning.”
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With the excavation of the remains of Pień “vampire” complete, the archaeologists are now planning further research at the cemetery.
In the meantime, an analysis of the skeletal remains is being conducted by NCU anthropologist Dr Alicja Drozd-Lipińska.
The sickle and padlock are being conserved by archaeologist Dr Marek Kołyszko, also of NCU.
In addition, DNA testing on the human remains will be conducted by researchers at the University of Krakow, with the aim of learning more about the woman.