Child ‘vampire’ unearthed in Italy with rock stuffed into its mouth

Child ‘vampire’ unearthed in Italy with rock stuffed into its mouth

Those who buried the child, who possibly died of malaria, may have used the rock to prevent him or her (the child's sex isn't known) from rising from the grave and spreading disease to other people, said a team of researchers in a statement released October 12 by the University of Arizona.

Researchers have discovered the remains of a child at an ancient Roman site that shows signs of a "vampire burial". Locals are calling it the "Vampire of Lugnano".

"I've never seen anything like it", said Professor Soren, a Regents' Professor in the UA school of anthropology and department of religious studies and classics. The graveyard, which is situated atop the foundations of an abandoned 1st-century villa in Lugnano, Italy, has previously yielded the bones of dozens of children buried during the mid-5th century-a period when malaria devastated central Italy and its vulnerable population of infants and toddlers.

Archaeologists working in Italy have discovered an unusual burial site - a rock has been inserted into the mouth of the buried person, a practice believed to prevent people from rising from the dead.

The archaeologists now plan to return to Lugnano next summer to complete excavations of the cemetery.

Researchers believe the child died of malaria sometime during the 5th century A.D., and a stone was deliberately inserted into the mouth after death to prevent the child from rising from the dead.

He added, "This just further highlights how unique the infant - or now, rather, child - cemetery at Lugnano is".

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Although the 10-year-old's remains have not yet undergone DNA testing, the child had an abscessed tooth-a side effect of malaria-that suggests he or she may also have fallen victim to the disease, Wilson says.

While that is uncertain, something has come to light with the discovery of the child's burial this summer: the body had a stone placed in his or her mouth. Because that body had stones weighing down her hands and feet-something traditionally associated with occult practices believed to keep the dead in the dirt.

"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. The late Roman vampire is significantly older than other children found at the site, and his tomb featured a "double-inhumation".

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.

"We know that this kind of unusual treatment usually indicates a fear of the undead, specifically, a fear that the dead might come back from the grave to continue to spread diseases to the living".

"We know that the Romans were very much concerned with [the dead rising] and would even go to the extent of employing witchcraft to keep the evil - whatever is contaminating the body - from coming out", Soren said. Here an elderly 16th-century woman, dubbed the "Vampire of Venice" was found with a brick in her mouth in 2009. And just previous year, a 3rd- or 4th-century adult male was found in Northamptonshire, England, with his tongue cut out and replaced by a stone. "Anytime you can look at burials, they're significant because they provide a window into ancient minds".

"It's a very human thing to have complicated feelings about the dead and wonder if that's really the end", Wilson said. We have a saying in bioarchaeology: 'The dead don't bury themselves'.

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