Fear of zombies led to bodies being mutilated, burnt

The mixed remains of at least 10 people, excavated from the abandoned site of a medieval settlement at Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire, bore knife-marks, suggesting the bodies had been decapitated and dismembered.  

Mutilated and burnt corpses up to 1,000 years old,found in a burial pit in northern England, are believed to provide evidence of a medieval fear of zombies, archaeologists said on Monday.
The mixed remains of at least 10 people, excavated from the abandoned site of a medieval settlement at Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire, bore knife-marks, suggesting the bodies had been decapitated and dismembered, said a team from Southampton University and Historic England.
The researchers said they also found evidence that some body parts were burnt and bones were deliberately broken after death.
They considered the possibility that the mutilation could have been caused by cannibalism but rejected that theory because most of the knife-marks were around the head and neck, rather than on the limbs and joints.
“The idea that the Wharram Percy bones are the remains of corpses burnt and dismembered to stop them walking from their graves seems tofit the evidence best,” said Simon Mays, a human-skeletal biologist at Historic England.
“If we are right, then this is the first good archaeological evidence we have for this practice,” Mays said.
“It shows us a dark side of medieval beliefs and provides a graphic reminder of how different the medieval view of the world was from our own.”
Other documented methods of preventing the dead from rising after burial in western Europe include placing large stones in the mouths of corpses in medieval Ireland and pinning the corpses to the ground in ancient Greek communities. — dpa