Researchers may have uncovered the first scientific evidence of a “zombie madness” that obsessed medieval England, according to a study of 137 human bones that were excavated from a deserted English village.
Dating from the 11th to 14th centuries, the skeletal remains were reduced to chopped, smashed, and burnt fragments in an apparent attempt to forestall revenants rising from the grave.
The bones were recovered in the 1960s from a pit at the site of Wharram Percy, a long-abandoned village in rural Yorkshire, but were never examined closely until now.
Gruesome evidence of extensive human activity was immediately clear.
“Some of the bones showed sharp force marks, signs of burning and perimortem breakage,” Simon Mays, human skeletal biologist at Historic England, Alistair Pike, professor of archaeological sciences at the University of Southampton, and their colleagues wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
While they considered starvation cannibalism as a possible cause, the researchers said they had ruled out a scenario in which the remains were cannibalized by villagers who were enduring one of the 12 known famines that occurred in England between 1066 and 1300.