Written by: Katy Meyers Emery
Primary Source: Bones Don’t Lie
There are a lot of times when I’m reading an article from a popular news source and just hoping that it is a joke, or that I accidentally read The Onion instead of a real news organization. So in honor of April Fool’s Day, here are some of the topics in Mortuary Archaeology that I wish were jokes, but sadly are not.
Vampires have been a hot topic in archaeology over the last few years (probably due to the general popular interest in vampires due to the Twilight or True Blood series). While I’m not opposed to us investigating the presence of deviant burials that may reveal information about beliefs in the past, I am opposed to the popular media calling them vampires. These individuals were not vampires- they were people who died under circumstances that led others from their community to attribute supernatural acts to them and their corpse, which in turn caused the surviving community to alter the corpse in some way- brick in the mouth, stake through the heart, etc. By simply stating that these individuals were vampires, we lose the important contextual and behavioral information. These behaviors were done in periods where there was fear of the unknown, so diseases like cholera or tuberculosis were attributed to supernatural forces stemming from the deceased. This fear led people to put bricks and nails in the mouths, and stakes through the hearts, of deceased people that they would have known and perhaps been related to- that is a powerful fear and shouldn’t just be ignored for the more shiny prospect of vampires really existing.
For more on this vampire related behavior, see these posts:
I really love science fiction- the prospect of new worlds and different humanoid species is a very tempting one, so I completely understand the hope for alien life. However, this doesn’t mean that I think alien lifeforms had anything to do with the appearance of unique and different shapes of skulls, nor do I think that we’ve found any skeletal evidence of aliens. The Paracas skulls have long been a subject of debate, with claims of their being alien life forms with unique DNA. They aren’t. The Paracas Skulls and the Starchild are humans. Personally, I find it more interesting and fascinating that humans were able to shape the skulls of their children in order to produce these unique head shapes to emphasize their elite status. The human skeletal system is an amazing thing, so why do people insist that its aliens? Can’t we be excited by how awesome we are as a species, and how creative people have been with their bodies?
For more on aliens and in depth discussion of the skulls I mentioned above, see these posts:
My Plea To The Reader
Focus on the evidence. Here at Bones Don’t Lie, I try to provide you with the straight up evidence, and then discuss the interpretations and findings. I write in this manner because it is the way that we should be looking at our unknown past. Remember- the bones don’t lie.
[Featured image from Flickr user Kenny Louie and used under Creative Commons license]