Myths and scientific realities about vampires


Vamp “Eclipse,” opening June 30, is the third big-screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's “Twilight” series of vampire romance novels. The stories revolve around the tangled relationship between the human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Heartthrob vampires are, of course, fictional creatures drawn from a rich history of myth and reality. Click ahead to learn more.

Bloodsucking humans in medieval times

This 16th-century woman, whose remains were excavated during an archaeological dig near Venice, apparently had a brick shoved into her trap because she was thought to have a thirst for human blood. Scholars trace the myth that humans rise from the dead and suck the blood of others to medieval ignorance about how diseases spread and bodies decompose. When mass graves were re-opened during epidemics to deposit fresh corpses, the diggers often encountered older, bloated bodies with blood seeping out of their mouths — conditions that scientists now know result from the buildup of gases in decomposing organs. In earlier times, however, this was regarded as a sign that the corpses were drinking the blood of others. Medieval Italians thought that the only known way to kill the undead was to stick a brick in their mouths so that they would starve, according to Matteo Borrini, a forensic archaeologist and anthropologist at Florence University. This skull with a mouthful of brick, he said, is “evidence of exorcism against a vampire.”

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