Friday, January 27, 2012

Revealed: Mysteries of the Vampire Skeletons – review

Director: Mark Fielder

Released: 2011

Contains spoilers

Narrated by Russell Boulter this documentary for UK TV Channel 5 looks into the latest finds of deviant burials that the archaeological community (or at least some within it) are suggesting might be vampire burials.

damaged legs wrapped around a boulder
Most famously, such a skeleton was unearthed in Venice. In this case the documentary concentrates on three deviant burials found in a dig in Kilteasheen in Ireland. At the dig – which revealed a large burial site – a skeleton was unearthed, whose legs had been wrapped around a boulder, in such a way – it has been suggested – to stop the corpse from walking. This was followed by the discovery of two skeletons who seemed to have stones thrust in their mouths. Interestingly, carbon dating put the skeletons as old as 720-760 AD, comparatively the Venice skull was likely from the 16th century.

skull with stone in mouth
Were these burials supposed vampires or revenants? One of the experts interviewed mentioned historical text, contemporary to the carbon dating, which suggested a belief in vampires, in Ireland, at that time. This source was a penitenitentia text, called the first synod of St Patrick, and the expert interviewed suggests that it says that anyone who believes in vampires should be put outside the church. As the word vampire would not have been in use (as far as we know) it is a pity that this was expanded on more.

reconstruction in cgi
There are pieces of English folklore that suggest a belief in revenants that are mentioned. These were the old woman of Berkeley, immortalised in poem by Robert Southey but originally told by William of Malmesbury (1095/96 – 1143), and also the tale of two men who were thought to have become Revenants in Drakelow, Derbyshire, in 1085. The documentary tells us of their bodies being exhumed, them being beheaded, their hearts removed and burnt (and interestingly two crows emerging from the smoke).

The documentary follows the beliefs into the vampire panics, telling us about the report by Johann Flückinger in 1732 and also looking briefly at the Petre Toma case from Romania in 2004, where the body was exhumed and the heart burnt.

With an obligatory mention of Bram Stoker and some footage of Whitby, which honestly seemed superfluous, the documentary does tread some very tired ground. However the main thrust is the deviant burials in Kilteasheen and this subject is fresh and interesting. 6.5 out of 10.

At the time of review their does not appear to be an imdb page.

No comments: