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Uncanny Archaeology of Halloween


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Author Topic: Uncanny Archaeology of Halloween  (Read 1872 times)
Vlad the Impaler
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« Reply #150 on: October 31, 2009, 01:39:11 am »

What is it like to work with such macabre or spooky subjects?
I don't think this is a macabre story, but I admit that was a very unusual subject. In forensic cases, people in the media often use words like "monster" or "vampire" to describe particularly violent offenders--but in this case I was researching a "real" legend. When I started to work on it, I didn't have any ideas about vampires, or why this skeleton had a brick in its mouth, but it was clear that there had to be a reason that someone in the 16th century decided to manipulate an infectious corpse like this. So I started researching the plague and folkloric traditions, and was astonished when I realized that this individual was considered a vampire and had been exorcised. Archeologists and anthropologists often study and try to reconstruct ancient religions, superstitions, and rituals, but it's a terrific feeling when you have some kind of clear evidence. In this case, I was confronted by evidence of belief in one of the most famous (and infamous) mythological characters . . . absolutely incredible. I must admit that in the beginning I was a bit afraid to present this to the scientific community--I didn't want my colleagues to think that I was looking for media attention, or, even worse, that I believed in vampires. But then I realized that I had to present it. It represents very useful evidence of past beliefs and traditions, and clearly illustrates how, in the absence of scientific knowledge, the human mind can misinterpret the reality to create "monsters." So working on this skeleton, reconstructing its history, and trying to explain how a certain vampire belief was born wasn't a macabre job, but a really great intellectual and scientific experience.

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© 2009 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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