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LUGNANO, Italy (CBS Local) — They’re calling it the “Vampire of Lugnano.”
Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a 10-year-old child in a northern Italian cemetery, whom they believe was given a “vampire burial” to prevent the deceased from rising from the dead.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s extremely eerie and weird,” said University of Arizona archaeologist David Soren, who has overseen archaeological excavations at the site since 1987.
Although the 10-year-old’s remains have not yet undergone DNA testing, evidence collected from the bones — including an abscessed tooth — suggest the child was infected with malaria at the time of death.
Also, the remains were found at La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies, which dates back to the mid-fifth century when a deadly malaria outbreak swept the area.
Among the remains was a skull with a rock intentionally inserted into its mouth. Researchers believe that was the result of a funeral ritual designed to prevent the child from rising from the dead and infecting the living.
“Given the age of this child and its unique deposition, with the stone placed within his or her mouth, it represents, at the moment, an anomaly within an already abnormal cemetery,” said David Pickel, a doctoral student at Stanford who is the excavation director.
The remains, uncovered by archaeologists from two U.S. universities — the University of Arizona and Stanford University — in cooperation with local experts, were discovered over the summer in the commune of Lugnano in Teverina.
The child’s gender is not known. Age was determined from the child’s teeth.