KAMIEN POMORSKI, Poland, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- An archaeological study determined medieval graves in Poland whose occupants received the vampire treatment were actually cholera victims.
Vampire burials, in which the dead were buried with rocks beneath their chins and sickles at their throats, were observed among hundreds of normal burials when a 17th century grave site was unearthed earlier this month in the northwestern Polish town of Kamien Pomorski.
The conclusions of researchers, published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE, suggest the alleged vampires actually died of cholera, and villagers suspected the deceased would rise and return to spread the disease.
"People of the post-medieval period did not understand how the disease was spread, and rather than a scientific explanation for these epidemics, cholera and the deaths that resulted from it, were explained by the supernatural, in this case, vampires," said Dr. Lesley Gregoricka of the University of South Alabama.
The bodies of some of the dead were found missing upper teeth and with stakes driven through a leg, presumably to keep the undead from biting and walking, aspects that "indicate it is a vampire burial," leader of the archaeological dig, Slamowir Gorka, told CNN.
Eastern European fear of vampires was strong in the 16th and 17th century, and evidence can be found throughout the region. In July, a construction site excavation in Gilwice, in southern Poland, found four decapitated skeletons with their heads between their knees.