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Skeleton of a ‘vampire child’ chained to the grave with a padlock has been found

Archaeologists have found the remains of a so-called “vampire child” dating back to the 1600s in a cemetery in Pien, Poland.

The skeletal remains were estimated to belong to a child between 5 and 7 years old. The body was found face down, and a triangular lock was chained to one of the legs.

Archaeologist Dariusz Polinski from Nicolaus Copernicus University spoke about his research and explained why a lock was attached to the corpse.

He noted that the object placed under the leg “symbolizes the closure of a stage of life and is intended to protect against the return of the deceased, who was likely feared.”

Such practices originated in folk beliefs and are sometimes described as anti-vampire rituals. According to Polinski, rituals from that time period stated that when a person was buried face down, the dead would “bite into the ground and not harm the living.”

Archeologists discovered the skeletal remains of what they believed to be a 17th-century “vampire child” in an unmarked Polish cemetery. Credit: Łukasz Czyżewski

Thirty more burials were discovered in the same region, and archaeologists believed that people who were “feared not only in life, but also in death” were buried there. Among the findings were jaw fragments with greenish stains that may have come from a copper coin placed in the dead child’s mouth.

In addition to the “vampire child,” the remains of a pregnant woman were discovered at the site. The fetus was determined to be approximately 5-6 months old. This finding was surprising because the bones of children this age are usually poorly mineralized and not well-preserved.

Interestingly, the same 17th-century cemetery where the “vampire child” was discovered was also the site where a “female vampire” was found in September 2022.

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The female vampire had a sickle that apparently shackled her neck and a padlock on the big toe of her left foot. These findings suggest various ways people in the past tried to prevent the dead from returning, such as cutting off the head or legs, placing the dead face down, burning them, or smashing them with a rock.

According to Polinski, the sickle found around the female vampire’s neck was positioned in such a way that if the deceased had attempted to stand up, the head would likely have been cut off or damaged.

The locked finger found on the female vampire symbolizes “the closure of the life scenario and the impossibility of returning.”

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