'Cemetery Of The Babies' Reveals 'Religious Solutions' Of Fifth-Century Romans

By Elly Lundberg
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 6:49pm
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2018 - 12:37pm

vampire burial Graphic
Justin Stabley/KJZZ
A stone was placed inside the body's mouth as part of the ritual.

In the fifth century, a malaria epidemic wiped out more than 50 children in a Roman city. People were unfamiliar with the disease and believed the children to be possessed.

David Soren, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, has been excavating a “cemetery of the babies” since 1987. He has found bodies weighed down with tiles, with a rock jammed inside the mouth or with raven claws or animal skeletons placed next to them.

“This is a real event, this is not a, you know, a newspaper, TV or radio headline," Soren said. "These people were terrified, and they were looking for religious solutions and people who could help them, who could save them and save their community.” 

He says residents believed these burial techniques caused the evil to leave the town as the epidemic slowly ended.

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