Child sacrifice

Child sacrifice

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Child sacrifice is the ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

istic killing of child
Child
Biologically, a child is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. Some vernacular definitions of a child include the fetus, as being an unborn child. The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority...

ren in order to please, propitiate or force a god
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 or supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 beings in order to achieve a desired result. As such, it is a form of human sacrifice
Human sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...

.

Aztec Culture


Archeologists have found remains of 42 children sacrificed to Tlaloc
Tlaloc
Tlaloc was an important deity in Aztec religion, a god of rain, fertility, and water. He was a beneficent god who gave life and sustenance, but he was also feared for his ability to send hail, thunder and lightning, and for being the lord of the powerful element of water. In Aztec iconography he...

 (and a few to Ehécatl
Ehecatl
Ehecatl is a pre-Columbian deity associated with the wind, who features in Aztec mythology and the mythologies of other cultures from the central Mexico region of Mesoamerica. He is most usually interpreted as the aspect of the Feathered Serpent deity as a god of wind, and is therefore also known...

, Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl is a Mesoamerican deity whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and has the meaning of "feathered serpent". The worship of a feathered serpent deity is first documented in Teotihuacan in the first century BCE or first century CE...

 and Huitzilopochtli
Huitzilopochtli
In Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli, also spelled Uitzilopochtli , was a god of war, a sun god, and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. He was also the national god of the Mexicas of Tenochtitlan.- Genealogy :...

) in the offerings of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
The ' was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. Its architectural style belongs to the late Postclassic period of Mesoamerica...

 by the Aztecs of pre-Columbian Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

.

Inca culture


The Inca culture sacrificed children in a ritual called capacocha
Capacocha
250px|thumb|Aztec burial of a sacrificed child at [[Tlatelolco |Tlatelolco]].The practice of child sacrifice in Pre-Columbian cultures, in particular Mesoamerican and South American cultures, is well documented both in the archaeological records and in written sources...

. Their frozen corpses are still being discovered in the South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

n mountaintops. The first of these corpses, a female child who had died from a blow to the skull, was discovered in 1995 by Johan Reinhard. Other methods of sacrifice included strangulation and simply leaving the children, who had been given an intoxicating drink, to lose consciousness in the extreme cold and low-oxygen conditions of the mountaintop, and to die of exposure
Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as . Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation...

.

Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)



References in the Tanakh point to an awareness of human sacrifice in the history of ancient Near Eastern practice. The king of Moab gives his firstborn son and heir as a whole burnt offering (olah, as used of the Temple sacrifice). It is apparently effective, as his enemy is promptly repelled by a 'great wrath' . In the book of the prophet Micah
Micah (prophet)
Micah, meaning “who is like Yahweh," was a prophet who prophesied from approximately 737-690 BC in Judah and is the author of the Book of Micah. He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Amos and Hosea and is considered one of the twelve minor prophets of the Tanakh . Micah was from...

, one asks, 'Shall I give my firstborn for my sin, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' , and receives a response, 'He has shown all you people what is good. And what does Yahweh require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.' The Tanakh also implies that the Ammonites offered child sacrifices to Moloch
Moloch
Moloch — also rendered as Molech, Molekh, Molok, Molek, Molock, or Moloc — is the name of an ancient Semitic god...

.

In Leviticus 18:21, 20:3 and Deuteronomy 12:30-31, 18:10, the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 contains a number of imprecations against and laws forbidding child sacrifice. James Kugel
James Kugel
James L. Kugel is chair of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar Ilan University in Israel and the Harry M. Starr Professor Emeritus of Classical and Modern Hebrew Literature at Harvard University....

 argues that the Torah's specifically forbidding child sacrifice indicates that it happened in Israel as well." It was not just among Israel’s neighbors that child sacrifice was countenanced, but apparently within Israeli itself. Why else would biblical law specifically forbid such things – and with such vehemence?" James Kugel
James Kugel
James L. Kugel is chair of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar Ilan University in Israel and the Harry M. Starr Professor Emeritus of Classical and Modern Hebrew Literature at Harvard University....

 (2008). How to Read the Bible , p. 131.
Mark S. Smith
Mark S. Smith
Mark Stratton John Matthew Smith is an American professor and Biblical scholar who currently holds the Skirball Chair of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies in the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University....

 argues that the mention of "Topeth" in Isaiah 30:27–33 indicates an acceptance of child sacrifice in the early Jerusalem practices, to which the law in Leviticus 20:2–5 forbidding child sacrifice is a response. Thom Stark has stated that the legends of Isaac, Jephthah’s daughter and the traditions of Exodus 22:29 show that ‘child sacrifice was performed for Yahweh.’

relates the binding of Isaac
Binding of Isaac
The Binding of Isaac Akedah or Akeidat Yitzchak in Hebrew and Dhabih in Arabic, is a story from the Hebrew Bible in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah...

, in which God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 tests Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 by asking him to present his son, Isaac
Isaac
Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible, was the only son Abraham had with his wife Sarah, and was the father of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites...

, as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah
Moriah
Moriah is the name given to a mountain range by the Book of Genesis, in which context it is giv. the location of the sacrifice of Isaac. Traditionally Moriah has been interpreted as the name of the specific mountain at which this occurred, rather than just the name of the range...

. No reason is given within the text. Abraham agrees to this command without arguing. According to the text, God does not want Abraham to actually sacrifice his son; it states from the beginning that this is only a test of obedience. The story ends with an angel
Angel
Angels are mythical beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles along with the Quran. The English word angel is derived from the Greek ἄγγελος, a translation of in the Hebrew Bible ; a similar term, ملائكة , is used in the Qur'an...

 stopping Abraham at the last minute and making Isaac's sacrifice unnecessary by providing a ram, caught in some nearby bushes, to be sacrificed instead. Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Francesca Stavrakopoulou
Francesca Stavrakopoulou is an atheist Bible scholar and senior lecturer in the University of Exeter's department of Theology and Religion. The main focus of her research is Israelite and Judahite history and religion...

 has speculated that it is possible that the story "contains traces of a tradition in which Abraham does sacrifice Isaac. Richard Elliott Friedman
Richard Elliott Friedman
Richard Elliott Friedman is a biblical scholar and the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia. He joined the faculty of the UGA Religion Department in 2006. Prior to his appointment there, he was the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization: Hebrew Bible; Near...

 has argued that the story may have originally had Abraham carrying out the sacrifice of Isaac, but that later repugnance at the idea of a human sacrifice led a redactor to add the lines in which a ram is substituted for Isaac.

Another instance of human sacrifice mentioned in the Tanakh is the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter in . Jephthah is victorious in battle against the children of Ammon and vows to sacrifice to God whatsoever comes to greet him at the door when he returns home. The vow is stated in as
"Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." When he returns from battle, his virgin daughter runs out to greet him. That he actually does sacrifice her is shown in verse 11:39 "And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed". This example seems to be the exception rather than the rule, however, as the verse continues "And she was a virgin. From this comes the Israelite custom that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.".

Phoenicia and Carthage



Carthage was notorious to its neighbors for child sacrifice. Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 (ca. 46–120 AD) mentions the practice, as do Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

, Orosius and Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

. However, Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 and Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

 do not. The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 also mentions what appears to be child sacrifice practiced at a place called the Tophet
Tophet
Tophet or Topheth is believed to be a location in Jerusalem, in the Valley of Hinnom, where the Canaanites sacrificed children to the god Moloch by burning them alive. The Hebrew Bible also mentions what appears to be child sacrifice practiced at a place called the Tophet by the Canaanites,...

 ("roasting place") by the Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

ites, ancestors of the Carthaginians, and by some Israelites.

Some of these sources suggest that babies were roasted to death on a heated bronze statue. According to Diodorus Siculus, "There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire."(Bib. Hist. 20.14.6)

Sites within Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 and other Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n centers revealed the remains of infants and children in large numbers; some historians interpret this as evidence for frequent and prominent child sacrifice to the god Ba'al Hammon.

The accuracy of such stories is disputed by some modern historians and archaeologists. At Carthage, a large cemetery exists that combines the bodies of both very young children and small animals, and those who argue in favor of child sacrifice have argued that if the animals were sacrificed then so too were the children.. However, recent archaeological work has produced a detailed breakdown of the age of the buried children and based on this, and especially on the presence of pre natal individuals - that is still births, it is also argued that this site is consistent with the burial of children who had died from natural causes in a society that had a high infant mortality rate - as Carthage is assumed to have been. I.e. this data supports the view that Tophets were cemeteries for those who died shortly before or after birth, regardless of the cause..

Greek, Roman and Israelite writers refer to Phoenician child sacrifice. However, some historians have disputed this interpretation, suggesting instead that these were resting places for children miscarried or who died in infancy. Skeptics suggest that the bodies of children found in Carthaginian and Phoenician cemeteries were merely the cremated remains of children that died naturally. Sergio Ribichini has argued that the Tophet was "a child necropolis designed to receive the remains of infants who had died prematurely of sickness or other natural causes, and who for this reason were "offered" to specific deities and buried in a place different from the one reserved for the ordinary dead". The few Carthaginian texts which have survived make absolutely no mention of child sacrifice, though most of them pertain to matters entirely unrelated to religion, such as the practice of agriculture.

According to Lawrence and Wolff, in 1984, there was a consensus among scholars that Carthaginian children were sacrificed by their parents, who would make a vow to kill the next child if the gods would grant them a favor: for instance that their shipment of goods were to arrive safely in a foreign port. They placed their children alive in the arms of a bronze statue of:
Later commentators have compared the accounts of child sacrifice in the Old Testament with similar ones from Greek and Latin sources speaking of the offering of children by fire as sacrifices in the Punic city of Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, which was a Phoenician colony. Cleitarchus
Cleitarchus
Cleitarchus or Clitarchus , one of the historians of Alexander the Great, son of the historian Dinon of Colophon, was possibly a native of Egypt, or at least spent a considerable time at the court of Ptolemy Lagus.Quintilian Cleitarchus or Clitarchus , one of the historians of Alexander the Great,...

, Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

 and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 all mention burning of children as an offering to Cronus
Cronus
In Greek mythology, Cronus or Kronos was the leader and the youngest of the first generation of Titans, divine descendants of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky...

 or Saturn
Saturn (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Saturn was a major god presiding over agriculture and the harvest time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of abundance and peace by many Roman authors. In medieval times he was known as the Roman god of agriculture, justice and strength. He held a sickle in...

, that is to Ba‘al Hammon, the chief god of Carthage (see Interpretatio graeca
Interpretatio graeca
Interpretatio graeca is a Latin term for the common tendency of ancient Greek writers to equate foreign divinities to members of their own pantheon. Herodotus, for example, refers to the ancient Egyptian gods Amon, Osiris and Ptah as "Zeus", "Dionysus" and "Hephaestus", respectively.-Roman...

 for clarification). Issues and practices relating to Moloch and child sacrifice may also have been overemphasized for effect. After the Romans finally defeated Carthage and totally destroyed the city, they engaged in post-war propaganda to make their archenemies seem cruel and less civilized.

Pre-Islamic Arabia


The Quran documents pagan Arabians sacrificing their children to idols.

Prehistoric Britain


A young child was found buried with its skull split by a weapon at Woodhenge
Woodhenge
Woodhenge is a Neolithic Class I henge and timber circle monument located in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site in Wiltshire, England. It is north-east of Stonehenge in the parish of Durrington, just north of Amesbury.-Discovery:...

. This was interpreted by the excavators as a child sacrifice.

Uganda


An investigation by the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 into human sacrifice in Uganda
Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

 found that ritual killings of children are more common than Ugandan authorities once thought.

Controversy


Precious little actual archeological evidence of widespread child sacrifice exists, leading some archaeologists to propose that child sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

 may have been less prevalent than historical documents may suggest. In the case of Carthage, for instance, the only reports of child sacrifice come from Roman sources. It is possible that, being mortal enemies of the Carthaginians, the classic historians may have engaged in a sort of propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 against their enemies. This can also be seen in the Jewish case: as they accused others in the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

 of child sacrifice, they themselves would come to be accused of it in blood libel
Blood libel
Blood libel is a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays...

 cases.

In other cases, such as the Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 and Inca child sacrifices, archaeological evidence has supported the written sources, and even added new information that keeps the debate open.

See also

  • Child cannibalism
    Child cannibalism
    Child cannibalism or fetal cannibalism describes the act of eating a child or fetus. Accounts, especially modern ones, are often dismissed as rumours or urban legends. However, there have been some media stories pursuing incidents involving the consumption of children and fetuses...

  • Child sacrifice in pre-Columbian cultures
  • Religion in Carthage
    Religion in Carthage
    The religion of Carthage in North Africa was a direct continuation of the polytheistic Phoenician religion of the Levant, with significant local modifications. Controversy prevails regarding the possible existence and practice of propitiatory child sacrifice in the religion of...

  • Binding of Isaac
    Binding of Isaac
    The Binding of Isaac Akedah or Akeidat Yitzchak in Hebrew and Dhabih in Arabic, is a story from the Hebrew Bible in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah...

  • Infanticide
    Infanticide
    Infanticide or infant homicide is the killing of a human infant. Neonaticide, a killing within 24 hours of a baby's birth, is most commonly done by the mother.In many past societies, certain forms of infanticide were considered permissible...

  • Early infanticidal childrearing
    Early infanticidal childrearing
    Early infanticidal childrearing is a term used in the study of psychohistory that refers to infanticide in paleolithic, pre-historical, and historical hunter-gatherer tribes or societies. "Early" means early in history or in the cultural development of a society, not to the age of the child....

  • Human sacrifice
    Human sacrifice
    Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...


External links