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Cemetery or sacrifice? Infant burials at the Carthage Tophet

Age estimations attest to infant sacrifice at the Carthage Tophet

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 November 2013

Patricia Smith*
1Laboratory of Bio-anthropology and Ancient DNA, Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, Hadassah-Ein Karem, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91120, Israel (Email:;
Lawrence E. Stager
2Semitic Museum, FAS Near Eastern Languages, 6 Divinity Avenue, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA (Email:;
Joseph A. Greene
2Semitic Museum, FAS Near Eastern Languages, 6 Divinity Avenue, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA (Email:;
Gal Avishai
1Laboratory of Bio-anthropology and Ancient DNA, Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, Hadassah-Ein Karem, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91120, Israel (Email:;


The recent article on the Carthage Tophet infants by Schwartz et al. (2012) takes issue with our paper (Smith et al. 2011) that claims the Carthaginians practiced infant sacrifice. Both studies were carried out on the same sample of cremated infant remains excavated by the ASOR Punic project between 1975 and 1980 (Stager 1982). We examined the contents of 334 urns while Schwartz et al. (2012) examined the same sample plus an additional fourteen urns (N = 348). We differed, however, in our conclusions regarding the age distribution of the infants and the extent to which it supported or refuted claims that Tophet infants were sacrificed. This note explains why we think that Schwartz et al. (2012) erred in their age assessments and introduces additional evidence to show that the age distribution of the Tophet infants supports our contention of infant sacrifice.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd 2013

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