Andrew James John Mackenzie
an historiography
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Vampirism in the Medieval Period


Earlier this month, archaeologists revealed that they had discovered evidence hinting at a possible vampire destruction reminiscent of Van Helsing, as popularised in Bram Stoker’s gothic tale, Dracula. The two skeletal remains were unearthed in the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Sozopol, both had been subjected to impalement after death. It has been suggested that the iron rod and ploughshare used to pin the individuals down was a preventative measure, designed to halt the dead from rising up and thirsting upon blood in their undead state.


The individuals date to between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The significance of these two particular individuals is that iron was used in their burial ritual, suggesting that these men were of wealthy high level status. This can be inferred as evidence of a medieval superstition, that men of powerfully high rank, namely the aristocracy, intelligentsia and the Church, could exercise their power wrongly, subscribing their souls to eternal damnation. Being trapped within their buried bodies, the damned souls would be driven to rise once more and leach upon the living.



Similar to Transylvania’s infamous Count Dracula, archaeologists in Bulgaria have postulated that the grave of most high status (i.e. the ploughshare) probably belonged to a medieval mayor of Sozopol, known as Krivich, who exemplified the same evil traits as both a bandit and plunderer. Moreover, according to Professor Bozhidar Dimitrov, he was a poor military tactician, suffering a defeat from Genoese invaders in the fourteenth century:

“He demonstrated incompetence when defending the town from a siege. As a result, Sozopol was overrun by the Genoese who took everything away from the local residents.”

 
These two graves are new additions to an already one hundred strong archaeological burial record, each man interned having been buried in the same vain and according to Van Helsing-esque ritual. Indeed, according to Professor Dimitrov, fear of the undead was all too real during this period. Ritualism and belief in the supernatural was commonplace:
 
"To prevent suspected would-be-vampires from turning into vampires, a group of brave men reopened their graves and pierced the corpses with iron or wooden rods. Iron rod was used for the richer vampires."
 

The mayor and his neighbor are the first ‘vampire’ burials discovered in Sozopol. Inevitably, it seems, vampire fever has struck the small Bulgarian coastal town. Tourists have poured upon the site in their thousands, bringing with them their thirst for vampirism and ‘vampire cocktails’. There are already calls for an immediate twinning with the notorious city of Sighisoara, Romania, birthplace of Vlad (the Impaler) III, Prince of Wallachia, the original Count Dracula. Folklore, and more recently, vampire fanaticism, is forever entwined with history. There is no getting away from the popularity which Stoker spawned in his classical telling, not when evidence for early imaginings and ritual is continually discovered.

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