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'Vampire Burial': Remains Of Child With Stone In Mouth Discovered At Ancient Burial Site

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The skeletal remains of a 10-year-old child appear to be evidence of how ancient peoples tried to prevent their dead from rising and spreading disease. So called “vampire burial” discoveries are not new, but provides insight regarding earlier peoples’ culture and beliefs.

‘Vampire Of Lugnano’

A team of archaeologists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University, along with archaeologists from Italy found evidence of “vampire burials” at an ancient site in Italy. Specifically, the team discovered the remains of a 10-year-old child with a rock inside the mouth, possibly as a ritual to prevent disease from coming out of the body.

The discovery of the now locally called the “Vampire of Lugnano” was made at La Necropoli Dei Bambini or the Cemetery of the Babies, a place that was an abandoned Roman villa that was eventually used as a cemetery for the children that died from a malaria outbreak in the mid-fifth century. In the case of the 10-year-old child, it appears that he or she suffered from tooth abscess, which is a side effect of malaria.

Before the discovery, the cemetery was believed to only be a burial site for younger children, the oldest being a 3-year-old girl. But it now appears that perhaps there might be more remains of older children to be discovered, especially since there are still parts of the cemetery that have yet to be excavated.

The 10-year-old’s remais were the first to be discovered with a stone in the mouth.

Witchcraft Against Diseases

Excavation director David Pickel states that the discovery of the child just further highlights how unique the child cemetery is. In previous excavations at the site, infant and toddler bones were discovered to have strange items buried with them, including toad bones, raven talons, the remains of puppies, and cauldrons with ash. These are items that are typically associated with witchcraft.

Further, a 3-year-old girl’s remains have also been previously found to have stones placed on her hands and feet, something that other cultures have also been known to do to prevent the dead from rising up from their graves.

The placement of the stone in the mouth in the newly discovered remains, a burial practice that has been seen in other sites such as in Venice and in England, shows that the child was given a vampire burial. This evidently shows how the people then were so keen on keeping the dead in their graves and on preventing the spread of evil and disease, even going so far as using witchcraft to containing the supposed “evil.”

“Anytime you can look at burials, they're significant because they provide a window into ancient minds. We have a saying in bioarchaeology: 'The dead don’t bury themselves.' We can tell a lot about people's beliefs and hopes and by the way they treat the dead,” said bioarchaeologist Jordan Wilson of the University of Arizona, the team member who analyzed the skeletal remains. 

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