Archaeologists have made a strange discovery on an Italian excavation site. In a children's cemetery dating from the fifth century AD, scientists have in fact uncovered the bones of a child of about ten years of age, and... in whose mouth a heavy stone had been placed. This ‘vampire grave’ has raised many questions.
Halloween might be long gone but this scary story definitely takes us back to October 31st. Even better, it’s a true story! This is the story archaeologists have revealed, with this strange and frightening discovery they made in the city of Lugano in Italy…
It all began in 1988. Thirty years ago, scientists unearthed the first vestiges of a sinister place founded in the fifth century of our era and then called ‘La Necropoli dei Bambini.’ In English ‘The Children's Cemetery,’ a necropolis built just steps from an abandoned Roman villa, built in the first century AD.
A relentless disease
By analysing the bones found there, archaeologists detected DNA evidence of Plasmodium falciparum, a parasitic protozoan transmitted by a mosquito, and responsible for a terrible disease, malaria.
Therefore it seems like it was a true hecatomb, or sacrifice which hit the Roman predecessor of the current Italian city of Lugnano, in the form of a disease which decimated especially the youngest. So far, the oldest child to have been buried in ‘La Necropoli dei Bambini’ seemed to be a three-year-old baby. The presumed eldest of this gloomy infant necropolis, who however seems to have been dethroned.
It is indeed the bones of a child of about ten years that archaeologists have just unearthed in Lugnano, a discovery which sends chills up the spine. The first disturbing sign is that the remains, whose sex could not be determined, also has one of the symptoms of malaria. In this case a dental abscess.
But beyond the confirmation of the relentless disease that struck the city, it is above all a detail related to the skeleton that makes the blood run cold, which is up there with some of the most effective horror stories…
A unique case
‘I've never seen anything like it, it's extremely disturbing and strange,’ said archaeologist David Sorel from the University of Arizona in the United States. And for good reason. A heavy stone was deliberately stuck in the mouth of the young body. Voluntarily, as evidenced by the teeth marks found on the rock.
‘In the area they call it “Lugnano's Vampire,”’ says David Sorel. This strange and cruel practice seems indeed to have been implemented to prevent the corpse from resurfacing, a rite known as ‘vampire burial,’ which had already been observed on several occasions, in Poland, as well as elsewhere in Italy. This rite was intended to prevent the dead from resurrecting and leaving their graves.
In this case, those who buried the child probably wanted to prevent him from coming back from the dead to transmit his illness. But this new discovery is surprising, as David Sorel points out. ‘Given the age of this child, and the singular position in which he is placed, with a stone stuck in his mouth, it represents, for the time being, an anomaly within an already abnormal graveyard,’ he says.
Other excavations already planned
Driven by only their curiosity, and no doubt also because of the breathless suspense of this real ‘archaeological thriller,’ specialists have already planned to return to the scene next year, hoping to make even more incredible discoveries, in order to better understand the origins of these obscure rites.
‘Every time we can observe a burial, it's important because it gives us a glimpse of the spirit of the elders,’ says bioarchaeologist Jordan Wilson, who is also affiliated with the University of Arizona. ‘We have a saying in bioarchaeology: "The dead do not bury themselves.” We can learn a lot about the beliefs and hopes of people and how they dealt with their dead,’ concludes the specialist. This can definitely be material for writers who are working on creating the next new archaeological series!
Check out the video above to see this incredible find for yourself!