Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baby graveyard not for child sacrifice?

The Carthage burial grounds called Tophet holds urns with the cremated remains of thousands of babies. While some say Tophet is a site of child sacrifice, others contend it was used to bury babies and fetuses.
A Carthaginian burial site was not for child sacrifice but was instead a graveyard for babies and fetuses, researchers now say.

A new study of the ancient North African site offers the latest volley in a debate over the primary purpose of the graveyard, long thought to be a place of sacred sacrifice.
"It's all very great, cinematic stuff, but whether that was a constant daily activity ― I think our analysis contradicts that," said study co-author Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh.

The city-state of Carthage was founded in the ninth century B.C., when Queen Dido fled Phoenicia (along the eastern Mediterranean shore) for what is now Tunis, Tunisia. The empire became a powerhouse of the ancient world and fought several wars against the Romans.
When archaeologists began excavating the ancient civilization last century, they found urns with the cremated remains of thousands of babies, young goats and lambs at a graveyard called the Tophet, which had been used from 700 to 300 B.C. At its peak, the Tophet may have been bigger than a football field and had nine levels of burials.

Based on historical accounts, scientists believed Carthaginians sacrificed children at the Tophet before burying them there. For instance, the Bible describes child sacrifice to the deity Baal, worshipped by a civilization in Carthage. A Greek and a Roman historian both recount gory tales from this time period in which priests slit the throats of babies and tossed them into fiery pits, Schwartz said. [ 8 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries ]
However, those accounts came from Carthage's enemies. "Some of this might have been anti-Carthaginian propaganda," Schwartz told LiveScience.

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