Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageBlack Death and the Vampire's origin

By Eko Armunanto     Jul 20, 2013 in Science
Contrary to Bram Stoker's Drakula (1897) that has largely been accepted as the origin of modern-day vampire fiction, vampiric entities recorded in many cultures since prehistoric times do not necessarily involve blood-sucking activity.
Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, killing an estimated 75 to 200 million people and peaking in Europe in the years 1348–50 CE. Recent analysis of DNA from victims in northern and southern Europe indicates that the pathogen responsible was the Yersinia pestis bacterium probably causing several forms of plague, said Haensch S, Bianucci R, and Signoli M in their article "Distinct clones of Yersinia pestis caused the black death" published in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe's population to recover. The plague reoccurred occasionally in Europe until the 19th century.
Contrary to Bram Stoker's Drakula (1897) that has largely been accepted as the origin of modern-day vampire fiction, vampiric entities recorded in many cultures since prehistoric times do not necessarily involve blood-sucking activity. It was interpretation of the vampire by the Christian Church that established the archetype of charismatic and sophisticated Bram Stoker's vampire known as Prince Drakula — Mariah Larsson and Ann Steiner, "Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twilight: Studies in Fiction, Media and a Contemporary Cultural Experience", Nordic Academic Press 2011.
The term "vampire" was almost unknown until the early 18th century after an influx of superstitions into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe, which according to Dr Tim Beasley-Murray, a senior lecturer at UCL's School of Slavonic and East European studies, came from its root in ancient Egypt and Greece during the pre-Christian era according to the Guardian.
This increased level of superstitions in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of what is then known as "vampirism". During this period vampires were often associated, one way or another, with the Black Death throughout Europe. In Northern and Central Europe, vampires were thought to be bringers of plague. On the other hand, in Southern Europe, it was believed that the Black Death itself attracted vampires. Those accused of being vampires, or doing vampirism, were simply executed with certain techniques to ensure they won't back alive from their graves — such as placing their decapitated head between their legs found by Dr. Jacek Pierzak and his team in Poland.
Accused of being vampire: A skeleton with the head between the legs  discovered in Gliwice  Poland.
Accused of being vampire: A skeleton with the head between the legs, discovered in Gliwice, Poland.
Media News
Tales of vampires existed in Europe before the Black Death, but the overwhelming scale of the Black Death seems to have heightened belief in vampires. Mass burials that resulted from the Black Death were common throughout Europe. The remains of a woman accused of being "vampire" was found in a mass-plague graves in Lazzaretto Nuovo, Venice. Suspecting that she might be a vampire, gravediggers shoved a rock into her skull to prevent her from chewing through her shroud and infecting others with the plague, said anthropologist Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence, published in the journal of Live Science.
Found on Lazzaretto Nuovo mass grave: A skull of the woman with her jaw forced open by a brick — a...
Found on Lazzaretto Nuovo mass grave: A skull of the woman with her jaw forced open by a brick — an exorcism technique used on suspected vampires.
Media News
About 500 people a day killed by the 16th-century plague, and the mass graves found on Lazzaretto Nuovo contain more than 1,500 victims, said National Geographic. Belief in vampires was rampant in the Middle Ages, mostly because the process of decomposition was not well understood. For instance, as the human stomach decays, it releases a dark "purge fluid." This bloodlike liquid can flow freely from a corpse's nose and mouth, so it was apparently sometimes confused with traces of vampire victims' blood. The fluid sometimes moistened the burial shroud near the corpse's mouth enough that it sagged into the jaw, creating tears in the cloth. Since tombs were often reopened during plagues so other victims could be added, Italian gravediggers saw these decomposing bodies with partially eaten shrouds, Matteo Borrini told National Geographic.
Reported on BBC, archaeologists in Bulgaria had also found two medieval skeletons pierced through the chest with iron rods to supposedly stop them from turning into vampires. They say the discovery illustrates a pagan practice common in some villages up until a century ago. Bozhidar Dimitrov, the director of the National Museum of History in Sofia, told local media that this was common practice in the Middle Ages, as people feared "bad men" would raise from the dead as vampires.
Archaeologists in Bulgaria found two medieval skeletons pierced through the chest with iron rods to ...
Archaeologists in Bulgaria found two medieval skeletons pierced through the chest with iron rods to supposedly stop them from turning into vampires, preventing them from leaving at midnight and terrorizing the living.
Media News
Writing for the New York Time, Nicholas Wade says the plagues called Black Death had their origins in China — a finding based on a report from a team of medical geneticists led by Dr. Achtman of University College Cork in Ireland. The plague would have reached Europe across the Silk Road; a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa. But the likely origin of the plague in China has nothing to do with its people or crowded cities, he cited Dr. Achtman. The bacterium has no interest in people, the Doctor said. Its natural hosts are various species of rodent such as marmots and voles, which are found throughout China.
More about deadly plague, Plague, Black death skeletons