Those who observe Valentine’s Day have many options in how to celebrate their love, but many choose to do it with chocolate. The pairing is a result of Valentine’s Day becoming celebrated as a romantic holiday starting with Chaucer in 1382 (and since becoming increasingly commercialized) and the rise of chocolate as a popular food in Europe. But it should be obvious that Valentine’s Day is not the only time in which we indulge in these candies. As of 2015, the average American eats 9.5 lbs of chocolate a year, and that amount puts the US at 9th in the world – in Switzerland the average citizen eats 19.8 lbs a year. The marriage of Valentine’s Day and chocolate may be fairly recent but chocolate consumption dates back thousands of years.
My first field school was a project investigating Medieval population demographics through the analysis of funerary excavations at various cemeteries in Romania, specifically in Transylvania. Before and after I went on this trip I got varying reactions from friends and family members. Someone even laughed at my destination, not realizing that Transylvania actually exists as a cultural/geographic region and not just as the mythological birthplace of Dracula. One of the most popular questions I received was “Oh, going to dig up some vampires, are you?” And while those who asked were obviously inquiring in jest the answer is not actually a resounding “no, of course not” that you might expect. While there are no un-dead among us, sucking blood and avoiding the garlic fries on the menu at your favorite restaurant, anthropology teaches us that many legends are based in fact. And the fact of the matter is, there was a time when people believed that their towns were being terrorized by vampires, and that fact may be translated into certain burial practices for the “monster” in question.