New Study Finds That These Medieval Villagers Mutilated The Dead To Prevent Zombies

Published April 3, 2017
Updated December 19, 2017

Medieval villagers in England didn't trust the dead not to come back to life and so they made sure that corpses wouldn't have the chance.

Mutilation Of Corpses During The Middle Ages

Historic England/PAAn illustration of the medieval village of Wharram Percy, where the human bones were excavated.

Medieval villagers in England mutilated the dead to make sure that the corpses didn’t rise up from the grave after burial, new research shows.

English archaeologists have discovered that people who used to live in the Wharram Percy village in Yorkshire, England during the Middle Ages used to chop, smash, and burn the recently dead, according to the Guardian.

Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science this past Monday, their research concludes that the mutilation was intentional and done after death.

“The idea that the Wharram Percy bones are the remains of corpses burnt and dismembered to stop them walking from their graves seems to fit the evidence best,” Simon Mays, a skeletal biologist at Historic England, told the Guardian. “If we are right, then this is the first good archaeological evidence we have for this practice.”

While cannibalism wasn’t uncommon back in those times, these 11th to 14th century villagers did not cut up their dead by the joints, as common in butchery. Instead, they focused on dismembering their heads.

“It shows us a dark side of medieval beliefs and provides a graphic reminder of how different the medieval view of the world was from our own,” Mays added.

The remains uncovered as part of this new study belonged to roughly ten individuals between the ages of two to 50, reports the Guardian, with 137 broken human bones found in total amongst them.

Next, find out what people actually ate in medieval times, before checking out the most painful medical procedures of the era.

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John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.