Buried Face-Down, 'Witch Girl' Stumps Italy

13-year-old was apparently ostracized, but buried in privileged area
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2014 7:33 AM CDT
Buried Face-Down, 'Witch Girl' Stumps Italy
The grave of the prone 13-year-old girl has yet to be carbon-dated.   (Courtesy of Stefano Roascio)

A 13-year-old girl apparently died peacefully, but the recent discovery of her undated remains in Italy is raising eyebrows. She was buried face-down—a sign that the person was in some way feared or rejected—and she's being dubbed the "witch girl" as a result. "The prone burial was linked to the belief that the soul left the body through the mouth," explains one anthropologist. "Burying the dead face-down was a way to prevent the impure soul threatening the living." Stranger still, the apparently ostracized girl, who appears to have suffered from severe anemia that could have resulted in fainting spells or hemorrhagic conditions, was found in a privileged area in front of a church, reports Discovery News.

"This makes the finding even more unusual," excavation director Stefano Roascio tells Discovery. Archaeologists know of one other such case, a teen boy whose belongings and grave placement suggest high social status in spite of his apparent punishment. The oldest downward-facing skeleton dates back 26,000 years to the Czech Republic, adds the International Business Times, and the most recent to the early 20th century. Other unorthodox burials include staking bodies to the ground, stuffing bricks in mouths, and even more horrifyingly, burying living people face-down. (Of course, some are buried alive by accident, as happened just this summer at a sugar plant in Pennsylvania.)

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