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Gaius Paulinus Maximus

Carthaginian Sacrifices

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I've heard mention of a Tunisian tophet having traditional burials as late as the 2nd century CE. Unfortunately those findings were yet to be published back when I was doing my thesis on the period and I haven't kept up to date on it really. :D

 

Would not surprise me one bit however. Roman Africa was still a country unto itself even in late Antiquity.

 

I have found another part of the site which I referred to in my previous postings which may be of interest as it also discusses the contentious issue of 'chald sacrifice'. It may be of particular interest as it mentions findings by Piero Bartoloni, Head of the Department of Phoenician-Punic Archaeology at Universita' di Sassari, Italy (reported in 2007) from excavations at Zama. Bartolioni noted that this child cemetery contained a large number of foetus burials (he believes that around 7 in 10 children died within their first year with only one in ten reached adulthood), He argues that the number of infant bodies found in this cemetery reflect the high infant mortality rate rather than supporting the myth of 'child sacrifice'.

I don't think that a 'guilty' or 'not guilty' verdict is at all easy to reach. Although I acknowledge the point about infant mortality, there is enough evidence from elsewhere that child sacrifice did take place. After all, each rite would not have constituted the large scale slaughter described by Diodorus of two-hundred noble infants and three-hundred others of 310 BCE when under siege by Agaothocles.

 

That the Carthaginians might have indulged in such practice may in some way be explained in that Ba'al Hammon was the equivalent of Cronos who swallowed his first born son to prevent his destined dethronement by him. The thinking here is that the Carthaginians maintained that the action of their chief deity of the time should be continued in his worship. Stager and Woolf suggest that the sacrifice of a first born within the aristocracy may serve to maintain the family wealth and for the poorer classes, act as a hedge against poverty. That assertion does not fit very well with a society with an already high infant mortality rate, which should be born in mind of course. However, we should also search for hard evidence of the actual infant mortality rate of Carthage, if possible, to be able to find the balance of probability.

 

Some of the inscriptions may be open to interpretation; however there is one that I find fairly straight forward that tells of a man called Tuscus who "gave Ba'al":

 

"...his mute son, a defective child, in exchange for a healthy one."

 

This is still, I suppose, open to interpretation but agin, it's about the balance of probability which I still feel points towards child sacrifice at Carthage and throughout her domain.

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Recent research by the University of Pittsburg posted on Eureka Alert has provided further evidence which refutes the long standing contention that the Carthaginians regularly practiced child sacrifice. c/f my posting of [url="http://

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Recent research by the University of Pittsburg posted on Eureka Alert has provided further evidence which refutes the long standing contention that the Carthaginians regularly practiced child sacrifice.

That claim by Univ Pitt sounds entirely illogical. Even if they could prove that all remains of children found had died from an excess of hugs and kisses, that does not contradict that undiscovered children were sacrificed. What they should say is that dribs and drabs of archeo remains do not happen to support the historical claims. If they did appear executed (as thought earlier), that would be proof, but the lack of of proven instances doesn't, er... prove anything.

 

We should be vigilant against a modern tendency in the social sciences to force fit evidence into politically correct interpretations. They presume each culture's behavior must be equally altruistic (except for dominant western culture, which is "bad"). Our children or grandchildren will no doubt work to deny the existence of burning women alive in contemporary India http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowry_death http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(practice) just as Putin has expunged Stalin's crimes against humanity in Russian textbooks.

Edited by caesar novus

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<Snip>

 

We should be vigilant against a modern tendency in the social sciences to force fit evidence into politically correct interpretations. They presume each culture's behavior must be equally altruistic (except for dominant western culture, which is "bad"). <SNIP>

 

I would rather turn that statement around to say that we should be careful that we do not blindly accept everything which comes from any historical source.

 

Archaeologists are now working to redress the balance of centuries if not millenia of effectively unquestioning acceptance that a relatively limited subset of historical documents were 100% accurate. Now admittedly in some instances the archaeological evidence does more or less support such documents but not always for which reason the veracity of the ancient documents has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years rather than for any reasons of 'political correctness'.

 

While absence of evidence is not ervidence of absence what we are seeing with this report is that even when it is being actively sought there is currently no physical evidence supporting the historic contention of an irregular let alone 'regular' Carthaginian/ Punic habit of child sacrifice. We now have two converging datasets from different parts of the Pheonecian/ Carthaginian/ Punic world which from sound statistical evidence both contradict what is increasingly looking like an ancient calumny. The childrens graveyards are increasingly being seen as simply that - somewhere to buty those who died at an early age. In comparison the indications are that in much of the Roman world children dying at that early an age would have had no special place to be buried - child burials within buildings are not uncommon.

 

Looked at impartially if there were no written accounts even vaguely suggesting, let alone 'claiming', that the Carthaginians carried out such sacrifices from the archaeological evidence to date nobody would be ever have considered making such a suggestion.

 

BTW Rather than referring to a 'putativce' sacrifice the earlier suggestion on this thread that one tombstone could be interpreted as a father 'sacrificing' a 'disabled' son for an 'able' son an alternative interpretation is that it was simply grieving father's appeal to the gods that having lost one son through natural causes he might soon have another.

 

[Edit - I have just ran a search for the reference to the 'mute son being sacrificed' quoted above and as far as I could determine it seems to have its origin in an article in 'Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, Volume 1, Number 2 - 'What Are/Is Christian Ethics?' by Jay E. Adams, S.T.M., PhD. My concern with this source is that despite there being numerous references to documentary evidence this particular 'quotation' is totally unreferenced in fact there isn't even any indication of what language it was supposed to have beeen written in. I would be interested if anyone could quote this particular inscriptions site/ publication reference number and which report it ands/or it's translation has been published in.]

Edited by Melvadius

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"Our results show that some children were sacrificed, but they contradict the conclusion that Carthaginians were a brutal bunch who regularly sacrificed their own children."

 

Very interesting statement that he doesn't elaborate upon...

 

But in the whole article they only seem to not discount the possibility of sacrifice but in no way give physical evidence of sacrifice. Which is frustrating.

 

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10...al.pone.0009177

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I don't see what is to be frustrated about in the article? ;) On reading the full article, to me, it appears quite clear that from the researchers 'brief' they set out to 'prove' whether any of the various contentions about the Tophet being a graveyard full of child sacrifical victims was correct or not.

 

In the discussion at the end of the article they clearly express the view that although there 'may occasionally' have been human sacrifices carried out in several cultures all around the Mediterannean in the period that it was not a regular occurance as far as humans were concerend. They did however note the high probability that 'some, if not all, of the cremated animal remains represent sacrificial offerings.'

 

The full discussion follows:

The identification of prenatal individuals in the Carthaginian Tophet sample is consistent with current data from modern-day studies on the incidence of stillbirth and spontaneous abortion as being the primary contributors to

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<Snip>

 

We should be vigilant against a modern tendency in the social sciences to force fit evidence into politically correct interpretations. They presume each culture's behavior must be equally altruistic (except for dominant western culture, which is "bad"). <SNIP>

 

I would rather turn that statement around to say that we should be careful that we do not blindly accept everything which comes from any historical source.

 

Archaeologists are now working to redress the balance of centuries if not millenia of effectively unquestioning acceptance that a relatively limited subset of historical documents were 100% accurate. Now admittedly in some instances the archaeological evidence does more or less support such documents but not always for which reason the veracity of the ancient documents has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years rather than for any reasons of 'political correctness'.

 

While absence of evidence is not ervidence of absence what we are seeing with this report is that even when it is being actively sought there is currently no physical evidence supporting the historic contention of an irregular let alone 'regular' Carthaginian/ Punic habit of child sacrifice. We now have two converging datasets from different parts of the Pheonecian/ Carthaginian/ Punic world which from sound statistical evidence both contradict what is increasingly looking like an ancient calumny. The childrens graveyards are increasingly being seen as simply that - somewhere to buty those who died at an early age. In comparison the indications are that in much of the Roman world children dying at that early an age would have had no special place to be buried - child burials within buildings are not uncommon.

 

Looked at impartially if there were no written accounts even vaguely suggesting, let alone 'claiming', that the Carthaginians carried out such sacrifices from the archaeological evidence to date nobody would be ever have considered making such a suggestion.

 

BTW Rather than referring to a 'putativce' sacrifice the earlier suggestion on this thread that one tombstone could be interpreted as a father 'sacrificing' a 'disabled' son for an 'able' son an alternative interpretation is that it was simply grieving father's appeal to the gods that having lost one son through natural causes he might soon have another.

 

[Edit - I have just ran a search for the reference to the 'mute son being sacrificed' quoted above and as far as I could determine it seems to have its origin in an article in 'Journal of Biblical Ethics in Medicine, Volume 1, Number 2 - 'What Are/Is Christian Ethics?' by Jay E. Adams, S.T.M., PhD. My concern with this source is that despite there being numerous references to documentary evidence this particular 'quotation' is totally unreferenced in fact there isn't even any indication of what language it was supposed to have beeen written in. I would be interested if anyone could quote this particular inscriptions site/ publication reference number and which report it ands/or it's translation has been published in.]

 

I didn't make a note of the source. As far as I recall, it is a translation of Punic script from one of the stones found at Carthage. I will, however, try and find the article used and shed some light on this.

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I don't see what is to be frustrated about in the article? ;) On reading the full article, to me, it appears quite clear that from the researchers 'brief' they set out to 'prove' whether any of the various contentions about the Tophet being a graveyard full of child sacrifical victims was correct or not.

 

In the discussion at the end of the article they clearly express the view that although there 'may occasionally' have been human sacrifices carried out in several cultures all around the Mediterannean in the period that it was not a regular occurance as far as humans were concerend. They did however note the high probability that 'some, if not all, of the cremated animal remains represent sacrificial offerings.'

 

The full discussion follows:

The identification of prenatal individuals in the Carthaginian Tophet sample is consistent with current data from modern-day studies on the incidence of stillbirth and spontaneous abortion as being the primary contributors to

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I must admit to having missed that one-line reference in the press release when I read it - thus my own confusion. It is totally from left field in comparison to the actual research which was carried out and indeed the rest of the press release. I agree that it does not appear to be supported in any way by the published findings.

 

The research concentrated on analysis of mortality statistics and from the discussion and other explanatory text seems to have found these consistent with expectated profiles for infant mortality through natural deaths. What seems to be missing from the published data is any analysis of possible pre-mortem injuries which may have addressed the 'claimed' incidences of child sacrifice once and for all. ;)

 

I suppose it is a question which really needs to be put to the research team what evidence they found (if any) for 'human' as opposed to 'animal' sacrifice.

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In times of great stress, Carthaginian nobles would were said to sacrifice a child to fire in the name of the god Ba'al Hammon. Seeing as Carthage was a Phonecian colony, it is certainly plausible. Equally possible is the simple fact that it was all Roman propaganda to make their Mediterranean rival look barbaric. Another thought however, is perhaps the nobles each sacrificed a child to ensure that each member of the upper-class was "sacrificing" equally, so to speak. In a city without a king(I believe?), and only highly successful ruling families, is that simple theory one that should be considered?

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Apologies that I didn't see this being discussed, just a few threads down. My posed question at the end of the o/p is still valid, if anyone wants to comment. :)

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I've just watched a documentary about Carthage on Discovery Civilizations, a part of the show focused on the Carthaginians apparent use of child sacrifice.

 

Accounts of child sacrifice in Carthage report that beginning at the founding of Carthage, mothers and fathers buried their children who had been sacrificed. The practice was apparently distasteful even to Carthaginians, and they began to buy children for the purpose of sacrifice or even to raise servant children instead of offering up their own. However, in times of crisis or calamity, like war, drought, or famine, their priests demanded the sacrifice of the children. Special ceremonies during extreme crisis saw up to 200 children of the most affluent and powerful families slain and tossed into the burning pyre. During the political crisis of 310 B.C., some 500 were killed. On a moonlit night, after the child was mercifully killed, the body was placed on the arms of a god like statue, the arms where angled towards a fire pit, and the body of the sacrificed child would then roll into the flames. The sound of flutes, lyres, and tambourines helped to drown out the cries of the parents. Later, the remains were collected and placed in special small urns. The urns were then buried in the Tophet. The Tophet was a sacred precinct of Carthage and it's translated in to "place of burning" or "roaster".

 

Archaeologists have found thousands of these urns containing the remains of the sacrificed children. Some people believe that the idea of the Carthaginians sacrificing their children is credited to the Romans who simply made it up in order to vilify and discredit the people of Carthage just that little bit more. The child mortality rate in Carthage was very high, apparently every 4 out of 10 children died before their second birthday, so some historians believe that this place called the Tophet was in actual fact just a children's cemetery and not a place of sacrifice.

 

The argument for both sides of the story was very believable, What do you guys think??

 

If it were only the Romans who spoke of human sacrifice then the argument that the Phoenicians/Carthaginians did not practice human sacrifice might hold water. But it is not limited to the Romans. The Old Testament speaks of this practice granted in mythological terms but supportive of the theme and the writers were a neighboring sub group of the phoenicians.

 

I would like to propose a supporting argument for the practice of human sacrifice from another angle. I think it entirely possible that the practice was transmitted to Meso America and led to the wide spread practice there beginning with the Olmecs and then passed to the Maya, Toltec, Aztec etc.

 

First allow me to present the evidence for a punic arrival in the New World. My link"]http://phoenicia.org/carthanewworld.html[/url]

A recent article showing what appears to be a map of the world on a carthaginian electrum stater. My link

 

This article prompted me to look for evidence on this side of the Atlantic. I found this. My link which speaks of child sacrifice at La Venta. The Olmecs lived concurrently with the Carthaginians.

 

Please be patient and don't jump to conclusions until I have finished my case.

 

Here is an Olmec cup. My link look down the page at the cup titled "Banded Eyed God (IV)" Now compare the figure to this roman mosaic My link (I forgot to mention that the projections from the mouth of the "creature" are described as teeth or a tooth. Could this be a ram? Why would the tooth be projecting forward from the mouth otherwise? I don't know of any animals living in Meso America having a forward projecting tooth or teeth.)

 

 

The figure on the cup is used in a number of 3 dimensional art works and is described as having an eye that wraps around from front to side. If one were to project a trireme on right angled figure might not the eye wrap? Looking at a trireme would you say the eye is in front or the side? Because of the shape of the ship both are correct. Looking from the front it faces you and looking at the side it also faces you. If you were told this but had never seen a trireme and did not know its shape but had to depict it in stone would you not wrap it so that one could see it from front and side? Experts have been perplexed as to the reason as to why the eye wraps, but if you accept the trireme idea that I've set forth it makes sense. The shape of the eyes on both the trireme and the indian works are very similar.

 

Here is an olmec carving that is purported to be the earliest known representation of the god of the plumed serpent (known to the Aztecs as Quetzalcoatli.) My link

 

If one ignores the distracting square flags and floating belt "what are we looking at?" Is this the front of a trireme? With a man sitting on the ram, perhaps sounding the water and looking out for submerged rocks?

 

The "plumed serpent" god makes me wonder how would a primitive observer of say a group of carthaginians wearing helmets topped with feathers moving in single file describe what he saw?

Perhaps "I saw a group of men with feathers moving like a snake." With retelling what would remain would be a snaking figure covered with feathers, and eventually a feathered snake.

 

I compared carthaginian names with the names of Maya gods and think this interesting. Khilletzbaal - compare this with Quetzalcoatl. Could Khilletzbaal have morphed in the retelling? The Mayan word for blood sacrifice is ch'ab, abd is a common prefix in carthaginian names. Abd means means servant or slave in Carthaginian.

 

When Cortez arrived in Mexico he was aided by the belief of the natives that Quetzalcoatl would return and was described as being white. The indians described his ships as great white birds, referring to the sails no doubt. They were expecting his return. Why?

 

That there was an explosion of advancement occurring suddenly beginning with the Olmecs involving art, architecture, agriculture, writing, astronomy etc. can not be questioned. Was it just a coincidence that they appeared when the Carthaginians had the ability to reach the new world? How does one explain the Olmec heads which appear to many including me as distinctly african? My link

 

What is that on his head? It looks like a helmet to me, with a reenforcing strap around the bottom and across the top, that makes no sense for a people without metal.

 

Finally I would like to show this a roman head found in Mexico in 1933. My link

Edited by Tribunicus Potestus

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