Funeral rituals sometimes reveal traditions that go beyond our understanding. After the discovery, in Italy, of an enigmatic ‘vampire burial’, we give you yet another burial, this one of a child that has raised the strongest questions as to its meaning. Archaeologists have indeed brought to light - in Poland this time - the bones of a boy or a girl of about ten years, that was hiding a strange object in its mouth... the skull of a bird!
The discovery of this strange entanglement of bones dates back to the last century. However, it took no less than 50 years for archaeologists to finally look seriously at these entangled animal and human remains. ‘Their discoverer, Professor Waldemar Chmielewski, never published the details of this discovery, he only included a photograph in a book published in the 1980s,’ archaeologist Małgorzata Kot of the Institute of Archeology, University of Warsaw explained to the government site Science in Poland.
Forgotten and yet precious bones
These bones are nevertheless an exception in their region of origin. It is the only remains of modern man ever unearthed in the Sąspowska Valley, an area in the Cracovian Jura, a limestone plateau that extends from Krakow to Częstochowa in southern Poland.
Originally very rich in remains, dating back to the oldest Paleolithic time, the subsoil of the region unfortunately underwent intense exploitation during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The sediments contained in the multiple cavities that punctuate it have in fact been extracted for agricultural needs. This extraction has removed many treasures, including Neanderthal tools.
The fact that this exceptional vestige has been preserved and been able to reach us in the present being almost miraculous, it was therefore necessary to study these strange nesting skeletons with great care. Thus, besides its age (about ten years or so), and the date of its burial (late eighteenth, early nineteenth century), determined by carbon dating, it is above all the bones of the birds that archaeologists have tried to understand - a challenge that proved quite difficult.
Two bird skulls
In addition to the skull contained in the mouth of the human remains, a second was also found at its side. These bird skulls were attributed to a species known as Fringilla coelebs, commonly known as chaffinch. These two remains of animal origin are still surrounded by a thick mystery.
‘We looked again at the birds’ skeletons, but there was nothing new in the analyses that could at least explain why the finch heads were accompanying the child. For example, there is no record of a cut on the skull. We only know that these are the remains of adult birds,’ explains Małgorzata Kot.
If the presence of a stone in the mouth of the Italian ‘vampire-child’ discovered previously could be explained, this time, it seems that the mystery can remain forever intact. Funerary rituals sometimes go beyond anyone’s understanding, and may even, as is the case here, surpass the knowledge and imagination of the experts.