16th-century "Vampire of Venice" was also a "witch"

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Washington, Feb 27 (ANI): The body of a woman, a medieval plague victim, who was buried during the 16th-century believed to be a female "vampire" in Venice, may have been accused of being a witch as well.

The woman, who was discovered among medieval plague victims in 2006, had her jaw forced open by a brick-an exorcism technique used on suspected vampires in Europe at the time.

The discovery marked the first time archaeological remains had been interpreted as those of an alleged vampire, project leader Matteo Borrini, a forensic archaeologist at the University of Florence in Italy, said when the skull was first revealed in March 2009.

According to a report in National Geographic News, new investigations have now shed light on who this "vampire" was, why people may have suspected her of dabbling in the dark arts, and even what she looked like.

"There is a piece of history to rewrite, to see this individual again after 500 years and also try to understand why the myth of vampire started," Borrini said.

Borrini found the vampire skull while digging up mass graves on the Venetian island of Lazzaretto Nuovo.

"Belief in vampires was rampant in the Middle Ages, mostly because the process of decomposition was not well understood," Borrini said.

To flesh out more details about the Venice vampire, Borrini assembled a team of scientists.

Paleonutritionists pulverized some of the woman's remains-discovered along with the skull-to look for certain elements in food that settle in the bones and endure after death.

The team found that the woman had eaten mostly vegetables and grains, suggesting a lower-class diet.

DNA analysis revealed that the woman was European, and a forensic odontologist ascertained the woman's age by examining the skull's long canine teeth with an advanced digital x-ray device.

The results showed that the woman was between 61 and 71 years old when she died.

Borrini was "quite shocked" by this finding, as most women didn't reach such advanced ages in the 16th century.

In medieval Europe, when fear of witches was widespread, many people believed the devil gave witches magical powers, including the ability to cheat death.

That means such a relatively old woman-suspected after death of being a vampire-may have been accused in life of being a witch, according to the researchers. (ANI)

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