Pitt project clearing Carthaginians of mass baby killing among top 10 archaeological finds of 2010

December 15, 2010

PITTSBURGH--A University of Pittsburgh researcher's endeavor to clear the name of ancient Carthage--a North African empire long accused of ritual baby killing--was selected by Archaeology magazine as one of the top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2010. The magazine is the world's largest general-interest publication for archaeology, with a readership of more than 750,000.

Jeffrey H. Schwartz, a professor of anthropology and of history and philosophy of science in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, is featured in the magazine's January/February 2011 edition for producing skeletal evidence that refutes claims from as early as the 3rd century BCE that the people of Carthage regularly sacrificed their youngest citizens. A team led by Schwartz reported in the Proceedings of the Library of Science (PLoS) ONE in February 2010 that burial urns thought to contain the remains of sacrificed infants actually contain the remains of all young children regardless of how they died. The team's examination of the remains revealed that most infants perished prenatally or very shortly after birth and were unlikely to have lived long enough to be sacrificed.

Archaeology included the project alongside such notable finds of 2010 as the decoding of the Neanderthal genome, the development of a nondestructive carbon-dating technique, and the discovery of a 3.6-million-year-old skeleton that proves early human ancestors walked upright. The top 10 feature is now available on the Archaeology Web site at www.archaeology.org and will be on newsstands Dec. 16.

"To be included on Archaeology's list is quite an honor when you consider the thousands of distinguished archaeologists around the world who work in the field year after year and spend a lifetime analyzing their finds," Schwartz said. "The task of selecting the 10 most significant finds from thousands of publications is no doubt difficult. To stand out from such a varied and illustrious crowd is a privilege."

Schwartz worked with Frank Houghton of the Veterans Research Foundation of Pittsburgh, Roberto Macchiarelli of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Luca Bondioli of the National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome to inspect the remains of children found in Tophets, burial sites peripheral to Carthaginian cemeteries for older children and adults. Tophets housed urns containing the cremated remains of young children and animals, which led to the theory that they were reserved for victims of sacrifice. The Pitt project was the first in-depth study of skeletal remains from Tophets.

The team examined the skeletal remains from 348 urns for developmental markers that would determine the children's ages at death. Schwartz and Houghton recorded skull, hip, long bone, and tooth measurements that indicated most of the children died in their first year, with a sizeable number aged only two to five months. At least 20 percent of the sample was prenatal.

Schwartz and Houghton then selected the teeth from 50 individuals they had concluded died before or shortly after birth. They sent the teeth to Macchiarelli and Bondioli, who specifically looked for a neonatal line, an opaque band that forms in human teeth between the interruption of enamel production at birth and its resumption within two weeks of life. Identification of this line is commonly used to determine an infant's age at death.

Macchiarelli and Bondioli found a neonatal line in the teeth of 24 individuals, meaning that the remaining 26 individuals died prenatally or within two weeks of birth.
More information on the project is available on Pitt's Web site at www.news.pitt.edu/news/Schwartz-Carthage-infant-sacrifice.

University of Pittsburgh

Related Children Articles from Brightsurf:

Black and Hispanic children in the US have more severe eczema than white children
A presentation at this year's virtual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting reveals the disparities that exist for Black and Hispanic children when it comes to Atopic Dermatitis (AD), commonly known as eczema.

Black children with cancer three times less likely to receive proton radiotherapy than White children
A retrospective analysis led by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital has found racial disparities in the use of the therapy for patients enrolled in trials.

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: First Europe-wide study of children confirms COVID-19 predominately causes mild disease in children and fatalities are very rare
Children with COVID-19 generally experience a mild disease and fatalities are very rare, according to a study of 582 patients from across Europe published today in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Children not immune to coronavirus; new study from pandemic epicenter describes severe COVID-19 response in children
- While most children infected with the novel coronavirus have mild symptoms, a subset requires hospitalization and a small number require intensive care.

How many children is enough?
Most Russians would like to have two children: a boy and a girl.

Preterm children have similar temperament to children who were institutionally deprived
A child's temperament is affected by the early stages of their life.

Only-children more likely to be obese than children with siblings
Families with multiple children tend to make more healthy eating decisions than families with a single child.

Children living in countryside outperform children living in metropolitan area in motor skills
Residential density is related to children's motor skills, engagement in outdoor play and organised sports. that Finnish children living in the countryside spent more time outdoors and had better motor skills than their age peers in the metropolitan area.

Hispanic and black children more likely to miss school due to eczema than white children
In a study that highlights racial disparities in the everyday impact of eczema, new research shows Hispanic and black children are more likely than white children to miss school due to the chronic skin disease.

Children, their parents, and health professionals often underestimate children's higher weight status
More than half of parents underestimated their children's classification as overweight or obese -- children themselves and health professionals also share this misperception, according to new research being presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, UK (April 28-May 1).

Read More: Children News and Children Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.