In the Drawsko cemetery in Poland, archaeologists have discovered five skeletons with sickles placed at the throat or hips. This burial practice may have been meant to protect the dead from demons, or to keep the dead from reanimating and tormenting the living. [Read the full story on the sickle burials]

An extended dig

Excavations have been ongoing at the Drawsko cemetery since 2008. Some graves date back to the Bronze Age, but the sickle burials date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. This particular skeleton belonged to a man who was 35 to 44 when he died. (Photo Credit: Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)


A lost soul

This woman, also buried with a sickle, died at about 35 to 39 years old. Her skull has been crushed likely due to farming activities that later took place on the site. (Photo Credit: Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)


Notable difference

An older woman with no teeth left was buried with a sickle not at her throat but at her hips. (Photo Credit: Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)


An important figure

A coin was also placed in her mouth a stone was placed on her neck. Because of these strange grave goods, the archaeologists think this woman was considered special in the local community — perhaps she was even a witch. (Photo Credit: PLOS ONE, Gregoricka et al. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113564.g002)


Lost young

The outline of a wooden coffin can be seen in the grave of this teenage girl, who died between age 14 and 19. (Photo Credit: Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)


Burial gifts

In addition to the sickle placed at her neck, the teenage girl seems to have been buried with a copper headband and a copper coin. (Photo Credit: Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)


Protecting the dead

The archaeologists think the sickles may have served an "anti-demonic" purpose, perhaps intended to prevent the dead from leaving their graves or to protect the dead from evil forces. (Photo Credit: Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)


Unsettling deaths

It is not clear why these particular people were perceived as demonic, though the excavators speculate that some may have died in a violent way, or may have been thought to have supernatural powers while they were alive. (Photo Credit: Polcyn et al. Antiquity 2015, DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2015.129)