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Zombie Attack at Hierakonpolis

November 30, 2007

Tomb of Zombie

Watch out  zombies about…….

Hierakonpolis in Egypt (known as the City of the Hawk) is a site famous for its many “firsts,” so many, in fact, it is not easy to keep track of them all. So we are grateful(?) to Max Brooks for bringing to our attention that the site can also claim the title to the earliest recorded zombie attack in history. In his magisterial tome, The Zombie Survival Guide (2003), he informs us that in 1892, a British dig at Hierakonpolis unearthed a nondescript tomb containing a partially decomposed body, whose brain had been infected with the virus (Solanum) that turns people into zombies. In addition, thousands of scratch marks adorned every surface of the tomb, as if the corpse had tried to claw its way out!

Recent work at Hierakonpolis has, however, revealed compelling evidence that zombies may have been problematic already in Predynastic Egypt (ca. 3500 B.C.). Because this work has been undertaken with the most modern techniques, there is also the potential to uncover the hard scientific facts to illuminate the matter fully.

Headless burialFrom the very beginning of Predynastic research, Sir W.M. Flinders Petrie reported several headless, but seemingly intact, burials during his famous excavations at Naqada in 1895. Further excavations at Gerzeh and other sites revealed more of these curious burials, but no satisfactory explanation could be proposed at the time. More recently, excavations in the non-elite cemetery at Hierakonpolis  have uncovered more of these strange headless burials in addition to 21 individuals whose cervical vertebrae bear cut marks indicative of complete decapitation. The individuals include men and women ranging in age from 16 to 65. The number and the standard position of the cut marks (usually on the second-fourth cervical vertebrae; always from the front) indicate an effort far greater than that needed simply to cause the death of a normal (uninfected) person. The standard position also indicates these are not injuries sustained during normal warfare.

Overall, those with cut marks represent less than 4% of the cemetery’s population. Thus, one might suggest that the threat of zombification was relatively low, and those manifesting the disease were dealt with swiftly (though in some cemeteries evidence for cannibalism has also been found suggesting that one or two got a good meal first). Of course, if left unchecked, the virus could rage fiercely and it may have been the need for decisive and brave action that was the impetus that led to the development of early kingship in Egypt and at Hierakonpolis in the first place. (Perhaps a careful review of excavation records and skeletal remains from early Mesopotamian city-states is in order.)

To read a more detailed report:  http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/hierakonpolis/zombies.html 

 Below:  Trowel technique for dealing with Zombie attack on site

Dealing with zombie attack

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