Friday, January 24, 2014

Carthaginian child sacrifice

PUNIC WATCH: Carthaginians sacrificed own children, archaeologists say.
Graves holding tiny cremated bones confirm accounts dismissed as Greek or Roman black propaganda, study shows
(Maev Kennedy, The Guardian). Oxonian lecturer in ancient history, Josephine Quinn:
The inscriptions are unequivocal: time and again we find the explanation that the gods 'heard my voice and blessed me'. It cannot be that so many children conveniently happened to die at just the right time to become an offering – and in any case a poorly or dead child would make a pretty feeble offering if you're already worried about the gods rejecting it."

"Then there is the fact that the animals from the sites, which were beyond question sacrificial offerings, are buried in exactly the same way, sometimes in the same urns with the bones of the children."

Although hundreds of remains were found, there were far too few to represent all the stillbirth and infant deaths of Carthage. According to Quinn, there were perhaps 25 such burials a year, for a city of perhaps 500,000 people.

Past coverage of this debate is here, here, and here. As for this:
Quinn said many of her academic colleagues were appalled by her conclusions.

"The feeling that some ultimate taboo is being broken is very strong. It was striking how often colleagues, when they asked what I was working on, reacted in horror and said, 'Oh no, that's simply not possible, you must have got it wrong.'"

"We like to think that we're quite close to the ancient world, that they were really just like us – the truth is, I'm afraid, that they really weren't."
I think anyone familiar with the carnage that is the history of the last century will agree with me that, yes, they were.

HT Francesca Stavrakopoulou on Facebook.