A BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR
Dr. Bea Dreadful
Oct. 30, 2015
St. Petersburg College
OUR ANCESTOR: THE REVENANT
Revenant: A dead body that could reanimate, leave the
grave, and harm the living (Geggel)
Earliest known examples of graves containing revenants:
4500 – 3800 BCE, Cyprus; bodies found in graves with
millstones across heads/chests to pin them down
What made a revenant? Suicides; murder, drowning, plague
victims, improper burial, people who were cursed,
foreigners/outsiders, illegitimate/abnormal babies, babies
born on inauspicious date
• Discovered in Kamarina, a Greek city-
state in southeastern Sicily (598
B.C.E. – mid-first century CE).
Necropolis: Passo Marinaro (5th to 3rd
Two odd burials show how they
stopped our ancestors: putting
pottery and stones over the body to
keep them in the grave.
(Credit: Drawings by D. Weiss from G.
Di Stefano's excavation journals.)
• Revenants: Violent or unnatural death, death in
childbirth, lack of confession of sins,
possession by evil spirit, rampant sexuality, the
• Body might not expel all life energy at death;
soul sent out for judgment
• Spirits could slip into the corpse and then
run amuck through the world of the living
(Caciola 10, Finucane 57)
• To stop them: Confession, holy relics, burial
with spikes, beheading, burning the body
• Goal: Get body to decay quickly
• England, France, Germany and the Low
• Body tightly wrapped, sewn into a
• Acidic graveyard soil desired
• If the ground was not suitable, a body
might be boiled or dismembered as
“scattering the limbs [would] prevent the
possibility of revenants” (Caciola 34).
THE DANCING DEAD (DANSE MACABRE)
• Danse Macabre images manifested with the cemetery of the Innocents of Paris; popularized, living
and dead danced together
TODAY: WE STILL DANCE
Michael Jackson, “Thriller”; December 1983
EVIL: Walt Disney, Skeleton Dance, 1929
MODERNITY: THE ZOMBIE
• Zombie: noun 1. the body of a dead
person given the semblance of life, but
mute and will-less, by a supernatural
force, usually for some evil purpose.
• the supernatural force itself.
• The root of the word comes from the
language of Kikongo from the African
• First recorded as an English word (zombi)
in 1819; History of Brazil by Robert
MODERNITY: ZOMBIES ARISE!
The Walking Dead, 2012
The Dawn of the Dead, 1978
Now they can’t get
enough of us!
Night of the Living Dead
(1968) – radioactive
The Living Dead series
Shaun of the Dead
Walking Dead, World War
Z (TV) (mystery, disease,
• Bynum, Caroline W. “Death and Resurrection in the Middle Ages: Some Modern Implications."
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 142, 4. Dec. 1998: 589 – 590. JSTOR. Web.
25 Sept. 2014.
• Caciola, Nancy. “Wraiths, Revenants and Ritual in Medieval Culture.” Past and Present Aug.
1996: 3 – 45. JSTOR. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.
• Finucane, R.C. Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation. New York: Prometheus
• Geggel, Laura. “Ancient Greek burials prepared for zombie uprising”. Livescience.com. June 25,