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Archaeologists unearth skeleton of girl thought to be a witch

Archaeologists in northern Italy have discovered the skeleton of a 13-year-old whom Italian media has nicknamed "the witch girl."

The body was buried face down, which archaeologists think signifies that she "was rejected by her community and seen as a danger even when dead," Discovery News reports. The body was buried face down to "impede the individual from rising from the grave."

The prone burial has not yet been dated with radiocarbon methods, but archaeologists think the skeleton dates back to "the late antiquity or the early Middle Ages." The archaeologists, from the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology at the Vatican, discovered the skeleton in the San Calocero complex in Albenga on the Ligurian Riviera. Discovery News adds that the archaeological site was once a burial ground for a church dedicated to San Calocero, which was built in the fifth or sixth century C.E., but it was abandoned by 1593.

"These rare burials are explained as an act of punishment," Stefano Roascio, the excavation's director, told Discovery News. "What the dead had done was not accepted by the community." The researchers added, however, that the girl was not buried alive, and the skeleton showed no signs of a violent death.