1500-year-old English skeleton was "ritually staked" with iron nailsAnnalee Newitz11/08/12 7:31pmFiled to: secret historyArchaeologyHistoryUndeadVampiretweetFb27EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalink Any Buffy fan knows that you kill a vampire with a stake through the heart. And now we have further evidence that this method of destroying the undead is actually rooted in real-life practices. The latest study to explore this practice, by archeologist Matthew Beresford, is a close look at a 6th century skeleton found in the 1950s near an ancient church site in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. The body (pictured above at left) appears to have been buried in unhallowed, swampy ground outside the churchyard. And as Beresford puts it, "the remains had been ritually staked, with iron nails piercing the shoulders, heart and ankles." AdvertisementThough it's tempting to say that this was an early example of vampire hunting, Beresford points out that these remains fit the profile for many kinds of "deviant burials" dating back as far as 27,000 years ago. A deviant burial is a gravesite whose remains have been treated in a ritualized manner that indicates the corpse belonged to a criminal, a blasphemer, or a person who simply fell outside social norms. Common signs associated with such deviant burials include things like mutilation (like the head being removed), rocks and/or talismans on top of the grave, the body buried face down, or a body that has been buried in a wet or boggy area. Also, many of these bodies have been staked through the heart or other parts of their bodies.The body found at Southwell was buried in what Beresford speculates was a longstanding holy site. Originally a Roman residence, it probably became a church during the Dark Ages that underwent several changes, getting rebuilt multiple times over its history. Many bodies were found buried there, but none of the others was staked. It's notable, he says, that the body was buried in very wet ground. There was a widespread belief at the time that bodies buried in water or swamps were consigned to hell and would not return to plague the living.There are many legends about the undead being unable to rise if they have been pierced with nails. Recently, two such deviant burials were discovered in Bulgaria. During the middle ages, these people had been buried with steel rods jammed into their chests, probably to prevent them from returning to prey on the living.