'Vampire' skeleton found in Bulgaria with stake in its chest

A 700-year-old skeleton, unearthed in the necropol of a church in the Black Sea town of Sozopol earlier in June, was stabbed in the chest with an iron rod and had his teeth pulled before being put to rest. Another, similar skeleton, was found on Sept. 4, 2013, near Sofia.

Sofia — The skeleton of a man who lived between the 13th and 14th centuries, and had an iron stake driven into his chest to prevent him from becoming a vampire, was found in Bulgaria recently, archaeologists said.

The finding was made at the ancient urban complex in Perperikon, located in southern Bulgaria, chief archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov said.

"The man who was buried was between 35 and 40 years old. Bronze coins we found between his teeth show the period he lived in. He had an iron stake driven into the left side of his torso, between the neck and the chest," Ovcharov told the Standart news agency.

Vampire beliefs from pagan times were preserved by Orthodox Christians in the Balkans during the Middle Ages, when people thought that iron and wooden stakes could be driven into the heart of a dead person to prevent them from becoming vampires.

Another "vampire" was found in June 2012 in Sozopol, a small city on the shores of the Black Sea.

An iron stake had been driven into the heart of the man, who lived in the 8th or 9th centuries.

The ritualistic driving of a stake into the heart may have been performed on people considered evil, or who engaged in practices not understood by society, such as scientific or medical research, Bulgarian National History Museum director Bozhidar Dimitrov told Efe last year.

People at the time believed that after dying, "these persons turned into vampires and tortured and tormented the living, and they drank their blood in the night," said Dimitrov, who discovered the remains.