Fifth Century ‘Vampire Burial’ Unearthed In Italy


Image: The discovery was made in the so-called Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies. Image Credit: David Pickel / Stanford University

Archaeologists in Italy have found the remains of a child with a stone in his mouth in a 5th-century Italian cemetery.

They believe the unusual discovery is the result of people of the 5th-century trying to prevent the corpse from ‘turning into a zombie,’ and spreading malaria.

A Vampire Burial?

vampire burial or anti-vampire burial was a burial performed in ancient times in a way which was thought to prevent the deceased from coming back from the dead in the form of a vampire or to prevent an “actual” vampire from coming into existence.

Traditions, known from the medieval times, varied.

Across Europe, experts have discovered a number of Vampire Burials with the most often characteristic being a stone placed in the mouth.

Vampire of Lugnano

Image: The 10-year-old’s skeletal remains in the Necropoli dei Bambini. Image Credit:Photo David Pickel/Stanford University.

The skeletal remains, discovered by archaeologists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University, along with archaeologists from Italy, were the subject of a funerary ritual designed to contain the disease, and the body itself, explain experts.

The discovery of this unusual so-called ‘vampire burial’ was made during the summer in the Lugnano commune in Teverina, in the Italian region of Umbria, where archeologist David Soren from the University of Arizona has supervised archaeological excavations since 1987.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s extremely eerie and weird,” said Soren, a Regents’ Professor in the UA School of Anthropology and Department of Religious Studies and Classics.

“Locally, they’re calling it the “Vampire of Lugnano.”

A Creepy ancient Cemetery

According to Alexis Blue from Arizona University Communications, the Vampire burial was discovered at La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies, which dates to the mid-fifth century.

Experts believe that during the fifth century, a deadly malaria outbreak swept the area, killing many vulnerable babies and small children.

The bodies of the young victims were buried at the site of an abandoned Roman villa that was originally constructed at the end of the first century B.C.

Experts excavating the cemetery believed until now that it was where 5th-century people buried babies, toddlers and/or unborn fetuses. 

In fact, earlier excavations revealed more than 50 burials where the skeletal remains of a three-year-old girl were the oldest found.

However, what experts thought they knew about the ‘Necropoli dei Bambini’ changed when they unearthed the skeletal remains of a 10-year-old child. 

“The discovery of the 10-year-old, whose age was determined based on dental development but whose sex is unknown, suggests that the cemetery may have been used for older children as well,” explained bioarcheologist Jordan Wilson.

Experts are hoping that excavations at the Necropolidei Bambini’ will help them understand the devastating malaria epidemic that devastated Umbria some 1,500 years ago and to learn how the community dealt with the outbreak.


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