The presence of zombies and vampires in pop culture has seen a revival of late, but the superstition traces its roots back to Haitian culture. Discovery News reports that Archeologists have unearthed two 8th-century skeletons in Ireland with evidence of zombie precautions that predate the emergence of zombie and vampire folklore:
"One of the men was between 40 and 60 years old, and the other was a young adult, probably between 20 and 30 years old. The two men were laid side by side and each had a baseball-sized rock shoved in his mouth.
'One of them was lying with his head looking straight up. A large black stone had been deliberately thrust into his mouth,' Chris Read, head of Applied Archaeology at IT Sligo, said.
'The other had his head turned to the side and had an even larger stone wedged quite violently into his mouth so that his jaws were almost dislocated,' he added."
The researchers had originally thought they discovered a Black Death-related burial ground because vampire slaying rituals, involving sticking stones in the mouths of corpses, took place during the Middle Ages.
"It was believed that these 'vampire' individuals spread the plague by chewing on their shrouds after dying. In a time before germ theory, the stone in the mouth was then used as a disease-blocking trick."
However, considering these skeletons date back to the 8th century, researchers cannot link the corpses' condition to the vampire scare that began in the 1500s. Chris Read speculated to Discovery that the corpses could have had stones lodged in their throats to prevent their evil spirits from escaping the grave.
"The two Irish men could have been considered potentially dangerous people, such as enemies, murderers, rapists or they could have been ordinary individuals who died suddenly from a strange illness or murder.
Anything outside the norm would have caused the community to fear that these people could have come back to life to harass their loved ones or others against whom they had a grudge.
The mouth was seen as a key part of the body for such a transformation.
'It was viewed as the main portal for the soul to leave the body upon death. Sometimes, the soul could come back to the body and re-animate it or else an evil spirit could enter the body through the mouth and bring it back to life,' Read said."
The skeletons were dug up between 2005 and 2009 at Kilteasheen, near Loch Key in Ireland. Halloween come early.