A woman who may have been considered a witch some 800 years ago has been discovered by archaeologists who suggest the strange way in which she was buried indicates to them the locals at the time were worried she would rise from the grave and terrorize the living. The woman, who is estimated to have been approximately 25-30 years old at the time of her death was found in Piombino, Italy as archaeologists were looking for the tomb of St. Cerbonius. And there was one other chance discovery near the grave that only deepens the mystery.
The woman was buried with seven nails in her jaw for reasons archaeologists suspect had to do with accusations of witchcraft. Furthermore, she was discovered with dice near her. This is particularly strange since women were forbidden to play games of chance in the Dark Ages. The mystery was by no means lessened by the way in which her remains were prepared or the fact that she was discovered on hallowed ground.
The woman was found in a graveyard without a coffin, an uncommon practice at the time for people with such careful attention paid to their remains. Furthermore, her grave had nails surrounding her body as if the people at the time were attempting to keep her in the ground out of fear that she would attempt to rise up once again after death to continue to terrify the living. Of course what precisely she did to receive such harsh treatment is largely unknown. For the most part archaeologists are suggesting the dice may have played a part in the woman’s ultimate fate. She likely did not die of natural causes, but rather was killed. The exact cause of death is yet to be determined.
But this isn’t apparently the only instance where locals had fears over one of their own falling. Near the grave of the unknown woman another woman’s skull was discovered with a stone lodged in its mouth. Traditionally this was a way for people to keep the dead from rising in a 12th century interpretation of the vampire myth. But if fears over the woman returning were sufficient enough to require such careful and macabre action, why was she then not granted a coffin? This among other questions still plague archaeologists who are attempting to find answers to this bizarre and unlikely discovery.
Burial practices of the time were often grim, sometimes employing the scattering of bones or ashes in ways designed to force the dead away. A person was often treated after death how they were treated in life, with some rituals performed with the intention of destroying all evidence that the person had ever existed while others simply attempted to overpower the physical form and keep it underground. Practices such as these would remain alive for centuries, though they were uncommon even in those days. All of this only further asks who this woman could have been and why it was so important to keep her from returning.