Friday, October 31, 2014

Vampires and Archaeology ...

I don't have photos of all the excavated vampires, for example this one ...
Bulgarian archaeologists find ‘twin’ of Sozopol ‘vampire’ at Perperikon | The Sofia Globe: Archaeologists working on Bulgaria’s Perperikon site have found the skeleton of a male buried with a ploughshare in its chest, a find that professor Nikolai Ovcharov has already described as a “twin of the Sozopol vampire.”
But I've blogged about them before, so look at last year's quick summary - Dorothy King's PhDiva: The Archaeology of Vampires 101 - including the Vampire of Venice (photo to left), those from Poland and oh pretty much all over Europe. Between that and the label Vampires I think I've covered most of those found before this year ...

Werewolves and Zombies

Miranda Griffin gave a lecture at the University of Cambridge Festival Ideas in 2013 - she concentrates on Medieval example: Werewolves and snakewomen 

For Roman examples I recommend A Roman Werewolf and a Dinner Tale - Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog - he covers the story from the Satyricon:
The word for werewolf is versipellis, ‘turn-fur’, and werewolf veterans will notice some familiar traits. The moon is very much in evidence in Petronius’s story.
Dr Beachcombing even has a tag devoted to Werewolves!

There is quite a good summary of the Greek and Roman examples of the λυκάνθρωπος on Wikipedia, although as always I recommend double-checking anything there: Werewolf - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dr Beachcombing also has a tag for witches - here - and one for human sacrifice - here - and ... oh, I'm going to bet if you click on his blog you'll find something fascinating!

Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog -

For zombies, see Medievalists: What a Bunch of Tools: Zombie Saints and Their Use Within Medieval Communities

Dracula’s Prison in Tokat ...

Clues about 'Dracula’s captivity' unearthed in Tokat - ARCHAEOLOGY:
Restoration works in the Tokat Castle have discovered a secret tunnel leading to the Pervane Bath and a military shelter. Two dungeons have also been discovered in the castle, where Wallachian Prince Vlad III the Impaler, who was also known as Dracula, is said to have been held captive in the early 15th century.
 There's a more recent story about it here: Archaeologists Found The Dungeon Where Vlad Dracula Was Imprisoned

Blog Love: Katy Meyers and Bones Don't Lie on Vampires etc

Katy is an anthropology PhD student who specializes in mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology - she has a fascinating blog which covers all things bones in an approachable but academic manner.

Obviously she has covered the Vampire Burials:

Archaeology of Vampires | Bones Don't Lie
Archaeology of Vampires, part II | Bones Don't Lie
CAPA Conference and Mapping Deviant Burials | Bones Don't Lie
Deviant Burials in Early Medieval Ireland | Bones Don't Lie
Happy Halloween! | Bones Don't Lie

... as well as grave robbing ...

Grave Robbing: Not Always What it Seems… | Bones Don't Lie

 ... witches ...

Happy Halloween: Can we excavate witches? | Bones Don't Lie

... and Victorians having themselves photographed with the deceased, which makes most frat boy pranks seem rather tame:

The Presence of the Deceased | Bones Don't Lie

A New Polish Vampire ...

Archaeologists announced this new discovery in May.

‘Vampire’ skeleton discovered in Poland:
Archaeologists working in northwestern Poland have unearthed the remains of man who was buried with a rock jammed into his jaw and a stake driven into his leg. They believe that the individual was considered to be a vampire and given a deviant burial by the local population.
The discovery was made in a cemetery outside a church in Kamien Pomorski, a town close to the German border. They believe the skeleton dates back to the 16th century – it was found facing east instead of west (the typical orientation of a burial) and with a wound in the leg. At first the lead archaeologist Slawomir Gorka thought the injury was caused by a gunshot, but later tests revealed it was a puncture wound caused by a wooden stake that was meant to prevent the corpse from getting up.
The archaeologists also found that a rock was placed into the man’s mouth so hard that it knocked out his top-front teeth. It was a common method to have stones placed in the mouth of a person suspected of being a vampire.

Today In 475: Romulus Augustulus Became Emperor

... well, he tends to be seen more as an usurper, and his puppet 'reign' lasted less than a year before the boy was sent into exile in Naples.

If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

Adrian has also written a book about Romulus Augustulus, although since there is so little information about him, it is more a history of the period.

The Last Roman: Romulus Augustulus and the Decline of the West - Amazon UK

Amphipolis: Oh Ye of Little Faith

First off a little clarification - "hold your horses" is an English expression, an idiom which means "hold on" or "wait" ... I realised the in the English language we find puns as funny as the ancient Greeks did (for example a lion shown on the tomb of a man named Leo), but when people are reading across languages they can be confusing.

Maybe one day the Ministry of Culture will make our dreams come true and release an image of a horse which said "Alexander's horse" ;-) ... but please just take the expression at face value.

Speaking of horses, they had great meaning to the ancients, being both tractor and Ferrari, an indispensable tool and a means of showing off wealth. Many Macedonian and Thracian tombs had items belonging to the deceased buried outside the entrance, so that first thing I asked the excavators this time last year when they were digging the entrance was "did you find a chariot?" and the answer was no. That's one of the many reasons I assumed the tomb would not be filled with gold and grave goods, another being that we were well aware that it had been destroyed at some point and so was likely to have been emptied. Even if tomb robbers had stolen the gold and so forth, had it been used for burial they almost certainly would have left behind bits of bone, broken off fragments of objects and ash. The swan found inside could have swum in from the river, or it could have been killed for symbolic reasons - let's not forget it featured in numerous myths, for example Leda and the Swan.

Another English colloquial expression I was tempted to use yesterday was "it ain't over until the fat lady sings" - which means that we should not presume to know the outcome of an event still in progress ... but I didn't in case people misunderstood and thought I was accusing someone of being fat :-(  

Logic and years of experience tell me that there is a whole lot more to find at Amphipolis. 

I have done a couple of interviews in Greece this week, and one of the reasons I dislike doing press is because it gives the impression that I am the centre of a story, when the truth is that often there is a whole team working on a project, all of whom deserve credit.

One of the main reasons I did the press and am writing the book is to explain to people why the archaeologists working at Amphipolis are some of the very best in the world (I use the term 'archaeologist' in a generic way to include everyone from Dr Peristeri to the Architect Lefantzis to the technicians and guards and even the people of Amphipolis who have contributed). I was getting fed up of the way jealous archaeologists were trashing their site because of jealousy.

Today's press release is here.

I'm used to looking at the material from sites before a press release has been written, so for Amphipolis I look at the photos first.

So first off I see much rougher limestone blocks than the beautifully cut marble used elsewhere on the tomb ... and evidence that the tomb could go down further or that these could be the foundations; but if they are foundations, where is the finished floor that covered them? The earth underneath the blocks has many very clear layers of stratigraphy, with several that appear in the photograph to be distinctly different.

Then I see a door. The side of the door facing the viewer is rough, so this is the side which would have been by the doorframe and hidden.

Then I note the the design of the door is very different from the other photographs of the door with large 'nails' (or small shields): is this a different door or the reverse of the same door showing the interior view? The door looks thinner, but this could be an optical illusion due to the design and angle.

This photo tells me less about the excavation, more about what the archaeologists are thinking. Probably along the lines of "oh shit and we thought we'd get to go home this week-end" ... and "the Greeks wanted more, and this could well be more. Is it the start of something ...? when will the tomb end?" ... should we dress up as ghosts tonight and scare our colleagues for Halloween? (Okay, I admit the last bit I made up)

Then I look at the statement.

"revealed the foundations of the side walls. The mounting wall sits on artificial embankment of well compacted gravel with clay, thickness about 0.40 m" which confirms that the yellowish band is clay.

"The embankment was standing on the bedrock of the Kasta hill, which appears as a surface of fragmented schist" My Greek is poor, so the normal translation of σχιστόλιθος is slate ... but schist is another, and it seems more likely that ...?  Bedrock to me suggests that most of the mound was indeed artificial; it is possible the tomb goes down into the bedrock elsewhere, as tombs often did, but not there?

They go on to confirm that they found an artificial trench showing that there was at least an attempt to dig down into the rock. Silty sand like the rest of the tomb. They have already excavated 1.40 m down, and that they say they have not reached the threshold suggests that it might go down further?

The second marble door was found in this pit, further emphasising the idea that it was 'open' when the tomb was back-filled with soil.

The rest is just more details of technical work and shoring up.

Just to quickly add to what we were discussing last night in comments and on Twitter. Someone suggested that since I had made a point that the 1930s excavators had found enough to think the Lion Monument had stood near where they excavated it ... instead of my suggestion that it was re-erected not long after the tomb was built ... could there instead have been two monuments with Lions? 

I don't believe I'm always right, sometimes I'm wrong. And I am a great believer in discussing ideas as they can sometimes go nowhere and sometimes lead to a solution.

This map shows Kasta in red, where the Lion was erected in the '30s in green and the yellow thunderbolt of Zeus to show very roughly where the material was found in the 1930s.

The destruction of the tomb and the movement of the blocks is almost a bigger puzzle than who built it. Yes, two monuments sounds mad, and I can't think of a precedent, but then so little at Amphipolis has precedent and that's what indicates it was an important tomb ...

Antibes in France was originally Antipolis - anti-city, not in the negative sense, but as a pendent to and pre- echo of a larger city, possible Nikeia (Nice) or more likely Cannes.

The idea of a smaller monument to complement the larger one has no equivalent that I can think of. But given that Alexander was worshiped alongside his friend Hephaestion in many of his cults in Egypt, and that one of the things Alexander did before he died was order a tomb for Hephaestion ... it could almost serve as a 'gateway' to the larger heroon, the way gates to sanctuaries served?

No, I do not think that there are two tombs, but I also think it is worth exploring ideas and it is not impossible. It is only by discussing our ideas that we can clarify our thoughts.


The Vampire of Veliko Turnovo

Found in Bulgaria in 2012 ...

Bulgaria’s ‘vampire’ saga continues | The Sofia Globe:
This time it was near Veliko Turnovo, in a necropolis near the St. Ivan Rilski church and is from a much later period – 18th century CE.
The head of the archaeological dig, Professor Nikolai Ovcharov, told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio that there was nothing sensational in such findings.
He said that all kinds of rituals protecting the deceased from turning into vampires were widely practiced up until the beginning of the 20th century CE.
“For example the deceased is pierced through the heart, or stones are piled up on top of the body”, Ovcharov said.
“There is a ritual in which embers are placed on the chest of the deceased. Or his feet are tied. Or a fire is lit in the grave before the funeral. Those were folk practices from pagan times and didn’t mean necessarily that the deceased was evil or a vampire. It was simply believed that if the rituals are not carried out, s/he might turn into a vampire.”
Ovcharov said that in the grave in Veliko Turnovo, a purse was found, with about 30 silver coins so the deceased could pay for the passage to the other world and his feet were tied to prevent him from rising from the grave.

Vampires at the British Library

There's more about the exhibition on their web site: Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

The ‘Vampire of Vratsa’ ...

In July Bulgarian archaeologists " a medieval vampire burial site had been found during excavations of an ancient fortress near Vratsa" ...

Archaeology: Bulgaria’s ‘Vampire of Vratsa’ | The Sofia Globe:
Unlike the previously well-known method of disposing of vampires by driving a stake through the heart, the funeral ritual of the “Vampire of Vratsa” ... involved a boulder from the mountain. ... archaeologists have found the grave of an elderly man of a unusually tall height for the time, 1.8 metres. The burial site testifies to the special treatment of the deceased. On his heart, archaeologists found a deliberately placed processed white stone, said to be part of rituals against vampirism.
Archaeologist Alexandra Petrova told Bulgarian National Television that placing a stone on the chest, notably the left side where the heart is, was part of such a practice, that could also involve stabbing with a stake or iron knife. The aim was to prevent the deceased’s return to the world of the living, which in turn also could be done by putting a pet cat or chicken across the body. Such rituals would be carried out if the deceased was a stranger to the community, or loner or who had no one to watch over him at night. Another reason could be if the man, while alive, had been evil, thus prompting precautions against him coming back to cause mischief. In the case near Vratsa, there was apparently double insurance. This involved tying the feet to make the dead stumble if trying to return to the world of the living.

Archaeologists Uncover “Vampire” In Plovdiv

In August Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed another Vampire burial ...

Archaeologists Uncover “Vampire” Burial In Plovdiv - - Sofia News Agency:
One of the skeletons had a brick in its jaws and a roof tile on its head. “This is a typical European practice between XV – XVII c. and was done to prevent the dead from turning into a vampire,” the leader of the archaeological team Elena Bozhinova said. - See more at:

Blog Love: Discarding Images

Because what could be better than a Tumblr that posted weird and assorted little drawings from Medieval Manuscripts?

Discarding Images

For example ...

angry bats
'Northumberland Bestiary', London ca. 1250-1260.
LA, J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. 100, fol. 37r

medieval batman
Hans Vintler, Die pluemen der tugent, Vienna 1450.
Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod. s. n. 12819, fol. 129r

oh hi there  
'The Dawnce of Makabre' from Carthusian miscellany, Yorkshire or Lincolnshire ca. 1460-1500.
BL, Add 37049, fol. 31v

Vampires and Garlic ...

Probably the only medical study of the effects of garlic on vampires:
Vampires are feared everywhere, but the Balkan region has been especially haunted. Garlic has been regarded as an effective prophylactic against vampires. We wanted to explore this alleged effect experimentally. Owing to the lack of vampires, we used leeches instead.
I use a lot of garlic in cooking. We don't keep crucifixes at home, but the garlic seems to have protected us from Vampires ... so far!

Since today is Halloween, we'll be going Vampire today with a series of posts covering everything about their archaeology.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alpha TV etc

This is still baby steps - first I made my Twitter account public, then I started to talk to press ... the world has not collapsed. Although I still don't read or watch them, and I wish more of them would emphasise that I think the archaeologists at Amphipolis are amazing and doing all the hard work, apparently Social Media 101 is to also post links, so here goes:

Donna Yates on Christos Tsirogiannis

Dr Donna Yates would like me to make it clear that despite repeated claims, Christos Tsirogiannis is just a student with nothing to do with the Greek Ministry of Culture. She would also like me to make it clear that she was having a private conversation on Twitter that she just happened to keep Tweeting at me even though as she herself admits my account was then set to private and she couldn't read my Tweets, which was why she was quite happy to just insult me. She has made it clear that what she said was again wrong, and that Christos Tsirogiannis has only ever made general claims of looting at Amphipolis, and that she was  being incompetent spreading propaganda with very little tangential link to reality.

A vaguely incompetent student with a not particularly good Dr Yates seems like a rather rude way to describe Christos Tsirogiannis, but since Yates has been haranguing me to 'correct' myself, I am happy to indulge her and post her views.

My past experience of Yates has never been particularly positive. My past experience of Tsirogiannis was a conference last year where he spoke about a sculpture I had been instrumental in getting returned after the Libyan archaeologist had tried everyone else; he kept 'correcting' me and referred me to seek guidance from "the real expert" Peter Watson. I had not until that point been aware that Watson had even had any involvement with the sculpture, but expertise surely would have been getting it back to Libya?

Welcome to the world of people who fight looting by raising as much money as they can to go to conferences to talk about it, and who give as many versions as suit them rather than getting on with catching the looters.