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New Thoughts on Poland’s Sickle Burials

Friday, December 18, 2015

KRAKÓW, POLAND—Live Science reports that among the 250 graves excavated in Poland’s 400-year-old Drawsko cemetery, four of the dead had been buried with sickles placed at their throats, and one had been buried with a sickle placed over its hips. It had been suggested that the sickles were intended to prevent the dead from returning as vampires to harm the living. Marek Polcyn, a visiting scholar at Lakehead University, and Elzbieta Gajda of the Muzeum Ziemi Czarnkowskiej, argue instead that the dead were given Christian burials and were not otherwise marked as outsiders. In fact, the chemical signatures of their teeth indicate that they had grown up locally. The scientists think that these burials should be called “anti-demonic:” the sickles may have been put in the graves to keep the dead from rising, but they could also have been used to prevent harm to the souls of the dead. The use of forged iron tools could have even symbolized a passage from life to death. “The magical and ritual meaning of this gesture seems beyond doubt,” Polcyn and Gajda wrote in Antiquity. To read about the "vampire" interpretation of the burials, go to "Polish 'Vampire' Burials Studied."

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