'Child VAMPIRE' burial ground discovered on archaeological dig in Italy

A 10-year-old was discovered lying on its side in a fifth-century Italian cemetery previously believed to be designated for babies toddlers and unborn fetuses. Credit David Pickel  Stanford University

A 10-year-old was discovered lying on its side in a fifth-century Italian cemetery previously believed to be designated for babies toddlers and unborn fetuses. Credit David Pickel Stanford University

The vampire burial of a small child, who was apparently interred with a rock in his or her mouth to prevent him from rising from the dead, has been discovered in northern Italy.

Recent findings show that "Vampire burial" techniques were used in the ancient times to prevent a child, possibly infected with malaria, from rising from the dead and spreading the disease to the living.

"We know that the Romans would go to the extent of employing witchcraft to keep the evil-whatever is contaminating the body-from coming out", says University of Arizona archaeologist David Soren, who headed the excavation. "It's extremely eerie and weird", Soren added.

The child, whose sex remains unknown, has been dubbed the "Vampire of Lugnano" because it had a stone in its mouth.

The 10-year-old's skeleton is the oldest to have been found in the cemetery; prior to its excavation, the oldest bones belonged to a 3-year-old.

"There are still sections of the cemetery that we haven't excavated yet, so we don't know if we'll find other older kids", bioarcheologist Jordan Wilson, a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Arizona who analyzed the bones in Italy, said in the statement.

Archeologists have unearthed a skeleton of a ten-year-old child in the so-called Cemetery of Children in central Italy, which is a Roman earth-house for toddlers and babies as well as artifacts presumably used in witchcraft, including toad bones, raven talons, and bronze cauldrons. The late Roman vampire is significantly older than other children found at the site, and his tomb featured a "double-inhumation".

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The body of a 10-year-old has surprised an worldwide team of researches.

Until now, it was believed that the cemetery only held infants, toddlers and unborn fetuses as previous excavations of more than 50 burials found a three-year-old girl (also found with stones weighing down her hands and feet) to be the oldest child. Among the practices people resorted to, stuffing a rock into the person's mouth seems to be the most common.

A press release about the find says that the child was around 10 years old and lived around the fifth century. "This just highlights how unique the infant-or now, rather, child-cemetery at Lugnano is".

David Soren says that the vampire child was suffering from malaria at the time of his or her death, as excavators found an abscessed tooth, a sign of the disease, according to the university.

"Interred near numerous infants were the remains of at least 12 puppies all less than six months old and one dog about a year old, all found with various body parts, usually heads or mandibles, missing", Soren wrote in a 1996 report about the cemetery. Teeth marks on the surface of the stone provide further evidence that it was placed purposefully. In Northamptonshire in England about 75 miles north of London, a man from the third or fourth century was found a year ago, a stone sat where his tongue had been.

"It's a very human thing to have complicated feelings about the dead and wonder if that's really the end", Wilson concludes.

These types of burials are often referred to as vampire burials since they are associated with a belief that the dead could rise again. We have a saying in bioarchaeology: 'The dead don't bury themselves'.

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