Archaeologists Unearth "Vampire Child" at Ancient Roman Burial Site | Revolver

Archaeologists Unearth "Vampire Child" at Ancient Roman Burial Site

Professor David Soren: "Locally, they're calling it the 'Vampire of Lugnano'"
vamireskull.jpg, David Pickel/Stanford University
Unearthed burial site of the "Vampire Child"
photograph by David Pickel/Stanford University

At Italy's La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Necropolis of the Children of Lugnano, the skeletal remains of a child were discovered during a recent excavation; a rock was found intentionally placed in the mouth of the skull, a sign that the locals were attempting to prevent the young Malaria victim from rising from the grave to stalk locals as a vampire. While virtually every culture contains its own version of the mythos of the bloodthirsty night stalkers, according to Jordan Wilson — a bio-archaeology graduate student at the University of Arizona — "this is a very unusual mortuary treatment that you see in various forms in different cultures, especially in the Roman world ... [It could] indicate a fear that this person might come back from the dead and try to spread disease to the living."

Another member of the University of Arizona faculty, professor David Soren of the School of Anthropology and Department of Religious Studies and Classics, reported that he'd "never seen anything like it. It's extremely eerie and weird." The child remains represent the oldest deceased individual yet found in the cemetery, as all of the previously discovered corpses were of infants and what appear to be aborted fetuses. The fifth-century resting place has given researchers clues suggesting a mass death at the time — specifically, the bodies' burial in quick succession hints at an insidious pestilence that swept the region — as well as illuminating the ancient locals' customs regarding potential vampiric zombies. "We know that the Romans were very much concerned with [the dead rising] and would even go to the extent of employing witchcraft to keep the evil — whatever is contaminating the body — from coming out," Soren said.

The so-called vampire child is not the only sign of mysterious superstitious practices uncovered at the site. There have also been several witchcraft-adjacent objects exposed, including part of a toad skeleton, the claw of a crow's heel, sacrificial puppy skeletons and a pair of stacked bronze cauldrons. Read more of Soren's discoveries since his work began at the site in 1988 in this archived report