Friday, February 26, 2010

Routine Child Sacrifice Not Practiced by Ancient Carthaginians After All

Although Hannibal was used as a "boogey man" to scare misbehaving Roman children, Carthaginians did not, contrary to popular myth, actually wantonly sacrifice their children according to a new report by researchers from the University of Pittsburg.

The scientists examined the remains of children found in Tophets, structures on the margins of Punic cemetaries where urns containing the remains of young children and animals were placed.  The contents of 348 urns were inspected for developmental markers that would reveal the children's age at death.

[Image: Medea Killing Her Sons by Delacroix, 1862.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

"Schwartz [Jeffrey H. Schwartz, a professor of anthropology and history and philosophy of science in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences and president of the World Academy of Art and Science] and Houghton [Frank Houghton of the Veterans Research Foundation of Pittsburgh] recorded skull, hip, long bone, and tooth measurements that indicated most of the children died in their first year with a sizeable number aged only two to five months, and that at least 20 percent of the sample was prenatal."

"Schwartz and Houghton then selected teeth from 50 individuals they concluded had died before or shortly after birth and sent them to Macchiarelli and Bondioli, who examined the samples for a neonatal line. This opaque band forms in human teeth between the interruption of enamel production at birth and its resumption within two weeks of life. Identification of this line is commonly used to determine an infant's age at death. Macchiarelli and Bondioli found a neonatal line in the teeth of 24 individuals, meaning that the remaining 26 individuals died prenatally or within two weeks of birth, the researchers reported."

"The team's report also disputes the contention that Carthaginians specifically sacrificed first-born males. Schwartz and Houghton determined sex by measuring the sciatic notch&'a crevice at the rear of the pelvis that's wider in females&'of 70 hipbones. They discovered that 38 pelvises came from females and 26 from males. Two others were likely female, one likely male, and three undetermined." - More: Spero News

Carthage: A Journey Back in Time (Lost Treasures of the Ancient World)    History - Engineering An Empire: Carthage   The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean   Dying for the Gods: Human Sacrifice in Iron Age & Roman Europe   Some Inquiries Concerning Human Sacrifices Among the Romans
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