Researchers have unearthed the remains of what they believe to be a 17th-century "vampire" child who was buried face down and padlocked to the earth in a likely effort to assuage villagers' fears that the child would not return from the dead, the lead archaeologist on the dig told Insider.
The skeletal remains of the child, who anthropologists believe was 5 to 7 years old, were discovered in an unmarked, mass cemetery in the Polish village of Pień, near Ostromecko.
The "necropolis," which literally translates from Greek into "city of the dead," is also where archaeologists discovered a "vampire" woman last year, who was buried with a padlock attached to her big toe and a sickle laying across her neck meant to sever her head should she try to rise from the dead.
Archaeology professor Dariusz Poliński from Nicolaus Copernicus University, who led both digs, told Insider the two graves were found a mere two meters from one another in the cemetery, which his team believes to be a makeshift graveyard for "the excluded," or those who were not welcome in Christian cemeteries for various reasons.
Poliński said he and his researchers have uncovered about 100 graves in the cemetery, many of which display irregular burial techniques including "anti-vampiric" tactics used to stop people "coming back from the grave," including triangular padlocks attached to people's feet to keep them tethered to the ground and evidence of grave sites being disturbed or dug into after the initial burial.
There are several reasons a person may have been buried in such a cemetery, Poliński said. The individual may have exhibited strange behavior while alive that caused others to fear them, or they might have suffered from a disease of unusual physical condition that affected their appearance.
"It might have also been a person died violently and suddenly in strange circumstances," Poliński said via a translator. "Sudden death was often considered something people should be afraid of."
Seventeenth-century villagers were also prone to fears about children being buried who had yet to be baptized or christened, as well as people who died by drowning.
Poliński said archeologists also found a collection of loose bones near the child's gravesite, as well as a pregnant woman with a fetus determined to be about 6 months old.
Matteo Borrini, principal lecturer of forensic anthropology at the Liverpool John Moore University, told Insider's Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert and Marianne Guenot last year that the practice of "vampire burials" was common across Christian Europe starting as early as the 14th century.
People associated "vampiric" outbreaks with times of mass deaths that were unexplainable at the time, but are now assumed to have been pandemics or large-scale poisonings. The common thought was these "vampires" would hunt and kill their family members first, and then move on to neighbors and others in the village, tracking with our modern understanding of the spread of contagious disease, Borrini told Insider.
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