Archaeologists have found a tomb containing the remains of a 10-year-old child in the Lugnano commune in Teverina, Italy. Oddly, the skeleton’s mouth had been stuffed with a limestone rock. This strange discovery gives modern-day researchers clues into an ancient society plagued by a terrifying and inexplicable disease.
The remains were found at La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies, a Roman villa turned mass graveyard dating back to the fifth century. Disease spread easily throughout the Roman Empire through contaminated food and water, enabling a deadly malaria outbreak in northern Italy. Evidence collected from the bones suggests that the child had been infected with malaria. Archaeologists were also able to determine the age of the child from the bones, but were unable to determine the gender.
The remains, uncovered by archaeologists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University with help from local experts, were discovered this past summer. Depressions in the cement that covered the stone led archaeologists to believe the rock had been inserted into the child’s mouth postmortem, a funeral ritual to keep the child from “rising from the dead and spreading the disease.” Thus, archaeologists call them “vampire burials.”
Information for this article was gathered from CBS and the Washington Post.