Skeletal remains with stones wedged in their mouths, dating back to eight century Ireland, were buried in this manner to stop corpses from rising from their graves to haunt the living, a new documentary suggests.

The documentary, which showcases the work of archaeologists at the Institute of Technology in Sligo suggests that bodies were buried in this manner to prevent corpses from rising from the grave to haunt the living

A pair of male skeletons were discovered side by side close to a historic site overlooking Lough Key in County Roscommon. This discovery is the only of its kind in Ireland, according to Chris Read, lecturer of Applied Archaeology at IT Sligo.
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“One of them was lying with his head looking straight up and a large black stone had been deliberately thrust into his mouth while the other  had his head turned to the side and had an even  larger stone,  wedged quite violently into his mouth so that his jaws were almost dislocated,” explained the archaeologist.

There is a long tradition of revenants in Irish folklore and such “deviant” burials were employed to keep the deceased in their graves. Often referred to as “the walking dead” revenants tended to be people living on the fringe of society, according to Read.

Read worked alongside Dr Thomas Finan from St Louis University in the U.S., for the excavation of 137 skeletons from the site in Roscommon during digs from 2005 to 2009. The experts believe there was almost 3,000 skeleton remains on the site dating from 700 to 1400.

The documentary was featured on the British Channel 5 and will showcase on National Geographic next year.


Irish burial rituals - skeletons reveal fear of the undeadChris Read