They’ve had a bad press, those Carthaginians. For two and a half thousand years, it’s been believed that they routinely roasted their babies to death.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been tempted. Especially Saturn
But it now appears that they did nothing of the sort – because the sprogs routinely popped their clogs without any outside help.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined 348 burial urns and discovered that about a fifth of the children didn’t even make it as far as birth.
Most of the rest were pretty tiny, indicating that they were “unlikely to have lived long enough to be sacrificed”, they say.
Lead researcher Professor Jeffrey H Schwartz, suggests instead that very young Punic children were cremated and interred in burial urns regardless of how they died.
The bad press, it seems, is mostly down to Plutarch, and whichever joker wrote Leviticus and Kings.
But it’s still going on today, with some of those lovely people who think complete strangers’ bodies are their business suggesting that women who abort a 20-cell embryo might as well be spit-roasting toddlers.
“The idea of regular infant sacrifice in Carthage is not based on a study of the cremated remains, but on instances of human sacrifice reported by a few ancient chroniclers, inferred from ambiguous Carthaginian inscriptions, and referenced in the Old Testament,” Schwartz said.
“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.”