Archaeologists are the storytellers of our history, as they come across several new findings buried deep in the ground. They are quite familiar with the unearthing of human remains but, occasionally, they come across burials that are more bizarre and unsettling.
Folklore stories have been a part of the world for centuries. Archaeologists have seen it all, discovering several questionable remains. Think hybrid Frankenstein-type skeletons, to 'vampires' pinned to the ground with wooden stakes. There have been 'witches', held in their graves by heavy rocks. Some individuals with stones wedged in their mouths, iron sickles against their throats, or holes in their skulls that had been drilled to exorcise evil spirits.
An ancient skeleton of a teenage girl in Albenga, Italy, was uncovered in 2014 by archaeologists. The discovery was made during an archaeological dig carried out by the Vatican's Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology. The dig was at the complex of San Calogero, which was a burial ground on which a church was built around the 5th and 6th centuries. The girl was buried faced down and, according to researchers, burying an individual in this way was indicative of the person having been rejected by society or considered a danger, possibly due to accusations of witchcraft.
According to the excavation director, Stefano Roascio, such burials were carried out as an act of punishment intended to humiliate the dead. "The prone burial was linked to the belief that the soul left the body through the mouth. Burying the dead facedown was a way to prevent the impure soul threatening the living," anthropologist Elena Dellù told Discovery News.
The next discovery happened in October 2014, when a Bulgarian born farmer, Trayche Draganov, claimed to have found a box, chained shut, while ploughing a new section of field in the village of Novo Selo, Republic of Macedonia. Upon opening the box, inside was a werewolf-like skull.
The finding was reported to Ancient Origins by historian Filip Ganev, who spent time in Novo Selo while conducting research for his book on the Balkan Wars. He reported that the skull appears wolf-like with the exception of an enlarged cranium, a trait found only in primate species.
Ganev said that werewolves have been a staple of Balkan folklore since before recorded history. The legends vary from region to region as far as how and why one becomes a werewolf. Some believe that a person is born with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf. Babies born with hair are said to have a proclivity for this. Other regions believe that a person who died in mortal sin or made some other union with the devil would be reborn as werewolves.
The next discovery was made at an archaeological site on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, in 2001. A team of archaeologists found four skeletons, but there was a twist. The skeletons, one male and one female, were buried in the foetal position. With further tests, it was revealed that the male had died in around 1,600 BC and the female had died in approximately 1,300 BC. However, ten years later when further DNA examination of the remains was done, the mystery was unravelled. The DNA examination of the remains showed the two skeletons were actually made up of body parts from six different individuals, in what archaeologists have branded 'Frankenstein mummies'.