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Photos: Ancient Greek Burials Reveal Fear of the Dead

The ancient Greeks sometimes placed heavy objects, such as rocks and ceramic vessels, on the bodies of people they feared to be revenants, or the living dead. Researchers found two examples of revenant graves in the Greek city-state of Kamarina on southeastern Sicily. They also found evidence of katadesmoi, also known as curse tablets, addressed to underworld deities. [Read the full story on the Kamarina graves]

Map of history

The archeological site Kamarina is located in southeastern Sicily. (Image credit: Drawing by D. Weiss.)

Laid to rest

A burial, at Passo Marinaro, of a person laid on his or her side with bent knees. (Credit: Photo by C.L. Sulosky Weaver, courtesy of the Regional Museum of Kamarina (Sicily).)

Unusual characteristics

A reproduction of a sketch by Sicilian archaeologist Giovanni Di Stefano of one of the unusual burials. Notice the large amphora fragments on the individual's head and feet. (Credit: Drawing by D. Weiss from G. Di Stefano's excavation journals.)

An odd practice

A drawing of the peculiar burial that had five large stones placed over the body of a child. (Credit: Drawing by D. Weiss from G. Di Stefano's excavation journals.)

Curses

A drawing of one of the katadesmoi from Passo Marinaro. (Credit: Drawing by D. Weiss.)

Curse tablet

Caption: An example of a lead curse tablet found in Jerusalem. The 1,700-year-old tablet was found in the second-floor room of a Roman mansion, and describes how a woman named Kyrilla curses a man named lennys, likely over a legal case. (Photo credit: Courtesy Robert Walter Daniel.)

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Laura is an editor at Live Science. She edits Life's Little Mysteries and reports on general science, including archaeology and animals. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.