In 2014, prospectors in Germany discovered one body in a cemetery of 340 people, buried face down. The items found on the man, which included coins and a dagger, allowed researchers to date the corpse to between 1630 and 1650, but they have come to unclear why this specific person of all the deceased was buried in the cemetery face down, with everything. Its purposes are still intact.
Now, new research has indicated the answer – some are buried face down because survivors fear zombies.
By reviewing the records, the team found that many people had been buried face-down over the past 900 years, especially throughout Central Europe such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The team believes this practice originally occurred to demonstrate humankind’s humility to God.
But by the 13th century AD, Amelie Alterage of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland noticed that “something is changing”.
By analyzing medieval folklore, the authors of the study published in PLOS One found tales of nachzehrer, loosely translated as gorging on corpses – or zombies to be more specific.
Before the 13th century AD, the dead or ghosts were considered a friendly presence.
But as the plague spread across Europe in the 13th century AD, killing nearly half of the population, people at the time believed it was a punishment from God.
Bodies were piling up on the street as civilization struggled to cope with the death rate and with fear of punishing humanity, the perception of the dead changed and people feared.
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“There was a theory that someone would become a Nachshehr if they were the first to die in the community during a pandemic.”
With so little information about the plague at the time, people believed they had been insulted at the funerals of their loved ones because many would die soon after the funerals.
Matthias Toplak, an archaeologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany who was not involved in the study, told National Geographic: “This transformation into evil spirits takes place around the year 1300 or 1400.
The background for all of these supernatural beliefs should be the sudden death of many individuals from one community.
“It stands to reason that people would blame supernatural spirits and take action to prevent the dead from returning.”