Friday, September 21, 2012

Ancient Baby Graveyard or Infant Sacrifice Site?

Tunisia-2924 - This Place Bothered Me.........
The Tophet of Carthage, an infant cremation burial ground, has been a highly debated site for over a thousand years, and only in the past decade has it come under archaeological scrutiny. Historical sources from Jewish and Christian scriptures refer to it as a place of child sacrifice. Kleitarchos, in the 3rd c. BCE, described Carthaginians throwing live infants onto a pyre. Diodorus Siculus, a Roman author, described the sacrifice of upper class children to the deity Baal in 310 BCE at this location. These were later elaborated by 19th century authors to include descriptions of fire pits in the form of Baal, with metal grates that tipped the sacrificial infants into the pit. These offerings appeased the gods. There is also evidence that small animals, such as lambs or kids, were sacrificed there in place of children. Until recently, it was argued that there wasn't enough archaeological evidence to either support or dispute this claim.

A study by Schwartz et al. (2010) examines the remains from the site and makes a strong argument against these texts. The Tophet of Carthage is located near the ruins of the North African ancient city of Carthage, which is now found in a suburb of Tunis. The city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BCE during the Punic Wars. The cemetery itself was used for over 600 years, between 730 BCE and 146 BCE, with three distinct periods of use. There are no adult graves found at the site, only those of infants, lambs, and goat kids. The grave markers all have dedications to either Baal or Tanit, the patron gods of Carthage. The designation of the word tophet to the site is in reference to the Hebrew word topheth, which means "place of burning". The grave markers are argued to be evidence that the children were meant as offerings, further supporting the conclusion of sacrifice.

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