Ancient Greeks Feared the Living Dead

ancient greeks
© Carrie L. Sulosky Weaver / Regional Museum of Kamarina

Ancient Greeks were terrified of the living dead and restlessly tried to control and fight them off with necromancy, explain the archeologists in charge of the excavations in an ancient cemetery near the city of Kamarina, Sicily. The ancient Greeks used to cover their dead with rocks so they would not able to roam the world of the living again.

“In their scrolls, ancient Greeks used to write of how the living dead would emerge from their graves, walk on the streets of the city and sneak up to the victim, so as to seek revenge for some past offence. The condition, called necrophobia was common among the Greeks all through their history, from the Neolith period to modern times. On the other hand, some archeologists imply that the Hellenic were actually into necromancy. The city of Kamarina provided us with evidence for both opinions,” explains Carrie Weaver from the University of Pittsburg, USA.

Weaver along with her colleagues, made excavations south of modern day Sicily, where in the time of the Hellenistic era the ancient Egyptian colony of Kamarina was located, which was founded by the citizens of Syracuse, the birth place of Archimedes.

Soon the archeologists found a giant cemetery, where the citizens of Kamarina used to bury their dead for at least 2 centuries, from 5 to 3 century BC. When Weaver, her team and, some other archeologists began excavating the cemetery, they were able to find at least 300 skeletons of ancient Greeks, as well as a large number of artifacts and monuments representing their culture.

The archeologists were drawn to tomb number 653, whose “occupants” were buried in a rather strange fashion. For example, the remains of a poor citizen, who suffered from hunger throughout almost his whole life, was entirely covered in heavy pieces of amphora, while other skeletons – with large rocks. The situation was the same in the neighboring tomb – 693.

Not far from these skeletons, archeologists discovered several clay tablets, engraved with spells which were meant to protect the citizens of the city from the dead. According to Weaver and her team, all of this was evidence that the Greeks feared the living dead and practiced some form of necromancy.

Archeologists admit that there is still no solid evidence that the dead were buried under a pile of amphora and rocks just for that one reason, but they hope that future excavations will aid them in proving this hypothesis.