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Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 12 July

Polish 'vampires' keep their grave secrets hidden


vampires

It would seem to be the stuff both of nightmares and Hollywood teen movies - archaeologists in Poland think they may have unearthed a vampire grave that could be up to 500 years old.

Four skeletons were discovered at a construction site for a ring road near the town of Gliwice, in the south of the country.

Each skeleton was buried with its head removed and placed on its legs, a traditional folk ritual which it was believed stopped vampires from finding their way out of the grave and into the land of the living.

Although vampires have been celebrated in modern fiction, from Bram Stoker’s iconic Dracula to the more recent Twilight series of books and films, for centuries their legend was a real fear, especially in Eastern European countries.

During the 18th century, a frenzy of suspected vampire sightings in Eastern Europe led to mass hysteria.

People accused of being vampires faced a grim fate and were often executed by decapitation, as a way of ensuring they stayed dead and did not return to attack the living.

The last vampire burial unearthed in Poland was in a village in the east of the country in 1914, when a corpse was discovered with its head cut off and placed on its legs. It is not known exactly when the latest Polish “vampires” were buried.

Dr Jacek Pierzak, one of the archaeologists on the site, said that the skeletons were found with no jewellery, belt buckles, buttons or anything that could help to identify their age.

However, it is believed that they probably took place sometime in the 1500s. Another, more mundane theory about the skeletons is that they were actually the victims of a cholera epidemic. Victims of the infection were often buried in mass, unmarked graves in remote locations.

The archaeologists are carrying out more research to determine the truth.

Questions


  • What is an archaeologist?
  • Vampires make popular material for books, films and TV shows. How many vampire stories can you name?
  • Why do vampire myths capture the imaginations of so many people?
  • Can you think of any other legends about supernatural beings which have caused "mass hysteria" in the past.

Related resources


Vampires

  • Do vampires exist? Get students to draw their own conclusions by looking at source material – and developing their literacy skills.

Gothic Horror and Twilight

  • Make comparisons between Edward Cullen and a typical vampire with a lesson on gothic horror.

Medieval beliefs in vampires

  • Why did people believe in vampires? How could you prove that you were not a vampire? Find out with this engaging lesson.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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Further news resources


First News front page

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Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

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In the news this week


News items

Six Greenpeace activists have caught the attention of Londoners, attempting to scale Europe's tallest building, The Shard, in protest against oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

They have become a depressing but almost permanent fixture of social networking sites, bent on causing hurt and distress to other users seemingly for no reason. They are internet "trolls".

As, no doubt, you'll have noticed, he's done it. Andy Murray has won Wimbledon.

After days of unrest and mass demonstrations, Egypt's first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi has been ousted as leader of the Middle Eastern country by the army.



In the news archive index

Cloak of anonymity lifted from internet 'trolls' - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 10 July
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