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'Vampire' Found in Mass Grave

A skeleton excavated from a 16th century Venetian grave site may be the earliest example discovered of a body being treated at the time of its burial as a vampire.

A small brick deliberately lodged in the mouth of a dead woman is a key link to vampire legend, reports NewsScientist.com. The "vampire tomb" was unearthed by archaeologist Matteo Borrini on Lazzaretto Nuovo Island, in a mass grave of victims of Venice's 1576 plague.

During the Middle Ages, many believed that the plague, or "Black Death," was caused by "vampires" chewing on their shrouds after death. According to Borrini, grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop them from spreading the disease this way.

Borrini, of the University of Florence in Italy, says that the partial corpse he exhumed offers the earliest "exorcism evidence against vampires" to have been forensically examined.

NewsScientist reports that this claim is disputed by at least one other: Peer Moore-Jansen of Wichita State University in Kansas says he has found similar skeletons in Poland and that while Borrini's finding is exciting, "claiming it as the first vampire is a little ridiculous."

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