Last week we brought you the story that archaeologists had discovered two vampire graves in Bulgaria. Now one of those skeletons, complete with an iron spike through his chest, is going on display at the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The medieval skeleton will be revealed to the public this Saturday. No word yet on how long it will be on view.
Museum head Prof. Bozhidar Dimitrov has tentatively identified the skeleton as a man named Krivich, who was both a pirate and the mayor of the town of Sozopol where he was buried. When the Genoese besieged the town in the 14th century, Krivich bungled the defense. The town was sacked.
When Krivich died, he was punished for his failings in life by being staked through the chest. According to folk belief at the time, this kept him from becoming a vampire or ascending to heaven.
Even if you don’t get a chance to see the dead vampire, the museum is well worth a look. Bulgaria has a rich heritage stretching back to earliest times. I visited the museum when I was excavating a Bronze Age village in Bulgaria and found the collection truly impressive.
In addition to many prehistoric artifacts, there are golden treasures from the Thracian period, fine art from the glory days of the medieval Bulgarian Empire and more modern displays showing the struggle to become independent from the Ottoman Empire.
Besides history, Bulgaria offers beautiful trails in the Balkan Mountains, beaches along the Black Sea and very cool people. It’s a country worth visiting.
[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered two vampire graves in the city of Sozopol on the Black Sea. The burials, which are about 700 years old, were each held down with a massive iron stake through the chest. One vampire was buried in the apse of a church – a spot usually reserved for aristocrats – and showed evidence of multiple stab wounds.
Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the Bulgarian National Museum of History, says more than a hundred vampire graves have been found in Bulgaria. He says that most suspected vampires were aristocrats or clergy. Interestingly, none were women.
One possible explanation for the vampire myth comes from anthropologist Paul Barber in his book “Vampires, Burial, and Death.” He posits the vampire legend started because people didn’t know how bodies decomposed. Rigor mortis is only temporary. After a few days the muscles ease up and expanding gases in the body will actually shift it within the coffin. Blood seeps out of the mouth and the face and belly get a flushed and puffy look. So. . .a guy dies, they bury him, and shortly thereafter several more people die. The villagers decide the first guy is a vampire, and when they open up his grave they find he’s moved, looks fat and flush with life, and has bloody teeth. When you drive a stake through a body filled with corpse gas it lets out a shriek.
There are several good vampire attractions in Europe, such as Dracula’s Castle in Romania, the Vampire Museum in Paris and Highgate Cemetery in London, scene of a wave of vampire sightings in the 1970s.
Vampires have long captured the imagination. Vampire stories were popular in the nineteenth century and some of the best early horror films are vampire tales. “Nosferatu” (1922), a still of which is shown here in the Wikimedia Commons image, sticks close to the Bram Stoker novel. A different take can be found in the film “Vampyr” (1932). Both monsters are spooky, kick-ass killers, not the angsty pretty-boy teens of today’s vampire craze. As Bart Simpson once said, “Girls ruin everything, even vampires!”
What’s life like in a boring town? What’s life like in a dull one? Now a proposed trans-Atlantic collaboration aims to answer this important question.
Boring, Oregon, and Dull, Scotland, want to become sister communities. Local promoters say their towns are neither dull nor boring, and they should play on their weird town names to get more tourism.
One Boring website says the Oregon town of 12,000 is “an exciting place to live” and gets its name from early resident W.H. Boring. It’s unclear how Dull, a small village in Perthshire, Scotland, got its name. Similar words in Gaelic mean either “snare” or “meadow.” Indeed, there are some wonderfully dull meadows nearby. Boring has natural attractions too, including the Boring Lava Field from a boring extinct volcano.
If all this isn’t dull and boring enough for you, check out this list of weird town names. Too bad they missed my favorite, Knob Lick, Missouri!
[Photo courtesy C. Jill Reed]
Everyone knows the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, in which the German town was plagued by rats and hired the Pied Piper to take them all away. The Pied Piper led them into the nearby river and drowned them, and then demanded his fee. The city government decided not to pay him, citing budget cuts and the need to curb deficit spending. The piper then piped all the children away. This was a big relief for the city government because they could eliminate the education budget.
Now the city of Hamelin is facing a new plague of rats. Local officials say they’re attracted to the food left out by tourists for the birds. One rat apparently didn’t get his share and instead chewed through a cable powering one of the town’s fountains.
There’s no word if the city will hire another Pied Piper.
Hamelin is a popular tourist attraction and holds re-enactments of the famous story during the summer. It also has a well-preserved Old Town with many elegant buildings dating as far back as the 16th century. The surrounding Weser Mountains Region offers hiking, biking and sights such as the Hämelschenburg Castle.
[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
When you stroll through a museum, you generally assume that all those ancient artifacts you’re seeing were dug up by professional archaeologists or found by accident by some farmer plowing his field. Mostly you’d be correct, but researchers into England’s Roman past are getting some unexpected help. . .from moles.
Moles at the site of Epiacum, a Roman fort dating from the first to the fourth centuries AD, have been getting busy digging holes in the soil and turning up all sorts of archaeological goodies. The site is protected by English Heritage and nobody, not even the local farmers, is allowed to dig on it. The moles have apparently never heard of English Heritage and have been tossing out Roman pottery, jewelry, and even a bit of old plumbing.
Volunteers have been sifting through the moles’ backdirt, under the watchful eye of English Heritage, and the artifacts are being sent to a nearby museum.
Epiacum, known locally as Whitley Castle, lies twelve miles to the south of Hadrian’s Wall and protected some nearby lead and silver mines. Click here for more information about visiting the site.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.