A team of dentists from Katowice have subjected the skulls of six so-called vampires to tests in a bid to learn more about their lives.
Dating from 500-years ago, the skulls were unearthed in 2013 by archaeologists that had been called to a roadworks construction site in Gliwice.
In total, the remains of 53 males aged between 50 and 55 were discovered – having been first decapitated, their skulls had been placed between their legs leading some to speculate that they had belonged to people suspected of being vampires.
In line with the local traditions of the time, they would have been prevented from rising from the grave by having their heads cut off.
Monika Michnik of the archaeology department at the Museum of Gliwice said: “The victims were beheaded by an executioner, but we do not know why these people were punished so cruelly – it is possible that they were simply mentally ill.”
In total, six skulls were selected for testing at Katowice’s Dentim Clinic; although no fang-like teeth were found, researchers still found themselves faced with unexpected surprises.
Marta Szymańska-Pawelec, a dentist at Dentim said: “The teeth were in excellent condition with no cavities or suchlike, but we could see signs of pathological deterioration of the type that occurs with people that are stressed – that is in keeping with our knowledge that these people would have been stressed as they lived on the margins of society.”
Despite this, Szymańska-Pawelec emphasized the otherwise excellent condition of the teeth that were examined, She said: “Nowadays people don’t have such healthy teeth because of our sugar-rich diet.
“There were no advanced dental treatments back in the Middle Ages, yet people had far better teeth due to their grain-heavy diet.”
In addition to traditional dental analysis, each skull is also set to undergo an X-ray and a CT scan of the jaw to see if any trace of disease can be found.
Sebastian Pawelece, one of the project’s coordinators, said: “Teeth can be viewed as something of an archive of a person’s life – almost like tree rings. Examining teeth can reveal serious illness, injuries, trauma, etc.”
Once researchers complete their tests the skulls will be returned to the Museum in Gliwice.