Infanticide in paradise?
2013 01 15
By Kristina Killgrove | PastHorizonpr.com
A recent paper presented at the January 2013 Archaeological Institute of America conference by Anthony Tuck of U Mass Amherst entitled “Evidence for treatment of perinatal deaths in Etruscan central Italy,” has caused something of a stir.
Infants thrown out as rubbish
Poggio Civitate in Tuscany is a lavish Etruscan site dating back to 700 BCE and has been excavated over several decades. In 1971, a single fragment of infant humerus (arm bone) was found. Again, in 1983, two further fragments of humerus from an infant (or infants) who died around birth were recovered from the interior of the sites’ workshop. In 2009, another fragment of bone surfaced within the structure, this one a small part of the pelvis of a newborn.
The recent LiveScience headline, “Baby bones found scattered in ancient Italian village,” was predictable in getting across the idea that these bones had been haphazardly strewn across the floor, the implication being that the babies may also have been unwanted and cast aside. The evidence, according to the LiveScience article (as the full paper is not yet published), includes:
An arm bone of a fetus or neonate found near a wall with other animal bones and debris in 1971.
Two neonate or infant arm bones found with animal bones in 1983.
One neonate ilium found in 2009.
Creating exciting narratives?
The press has now begun to lead with headlines such as, “Did Romans dump the remains of their dead children with the rubbish? Grisly discoveries reveal unsympathetic attitudes.”
This sensational journalistic reporting draws people to conclusions that are at best misleading and at worst factually incorrect, given that Poggio Civitate is an Etruscan site from the 7th century BCE and clearly not Roman.
Examining the evidence critically
There are three compelling reasons not to interpret these 4 small fragments as babies being thrown out with the rest of the rubbish as the implications suggest.
First: incidental human bones on an archaeological site is not unusual, especially if the occupation is over any length of time, such as at Poggio Civitate.
Second: the conclusions Anthony Tuck reaches are at the bounds of possibility; he is quoted in Live Science as saying the bones may have been simply “left on the floor of the workshop,” and then suggests that the babies were from people of low social status because of their placement in a workshop, further insinuating that the babies were the children of slaves. He concludes that the bone found in 1971 was “swept the debris up against the wall, not differentiating between baby bones and garbage.” A rather odd situation to have dead babies scattered across the floor, where a more likely scenario was an unrecognised bone that had long been disturbed from its primary location ending up with other bones without the individual even realising they were mixing human and animal bones.
Third: Why does burial within or near a workshop (if indeed these infants were buried in/near the place they were found, and this is not just secondary deposition) necessitate low status? Finding infant burials under walls, under living floors, or just outside houses or workshops is not unusual in ancient Italian cultures. Jeff Becker and Jessica Nowlin  published a preliminary report on the burials of two Elite Infants at Gabii, along with comparanda of infant burials in Italy.
Problems of reporting
The reporting of infant burials is always problematic to a bioarchaeologist. From “brothel babies” to the Carthaginian infant sacrifice and now Etruscan neonates discarded with the rubbish, the headlines always seem to imply the people of the past were unfeeling about infant mortality, that poorer people had no time to mourn. It’s a long-standing trope – that death was just something people put up with and they were hardened to its devastation – but anthropologically and historically, it’s not usually based in proven fact.
We like to tell ourselves that we’re better than our forebears, that we are more civilized than the Etruscans, Romans or Carthaginians, that somehow we have culturally evolved to do right by our biological progeny. But we do a disservice to the past by assuming a lack of emotion, and we do an even greater disservice when we over-interpret a very small amount of data to arrive at a conclusion that has many other less sensational options.
Article from: pasthorizonspr.com
.Terracotta ex-voto with babies, from the votive stipe, from Tessennano Lazio. Etruscan Civilization, 4th Century BC.
First Ever Etruscan Pyramids Found in Italy
The Mysterious Etruscans
Who Were the Etruscans?
Horrifyingly, Ground Baby Pills Are a Real Thing
Oh Baby! Man ’Fathered 600 Children’ at Own Fertility Clinic
Huge Peru Tomb Found—80 Bodies, Ring of Babies
More Babies Today Have Irregular Head Shape
The brains of human and Neanderthal babies were almost identical
248 human fetuses found in Russian forest
Latest News from our Front Page
Prehistoric Underwater Wall Divides Scientists
2013 12 11
Two camps of scientists have faced off on the issue of the underwater structure known as Bimini Road off the coast of the Bahamas since it was first discovered in 1968.
One camp says it is a 12,000–19,000-year-old man-made structure—flouting the conventional understanding that advanced civilizations only emerged some 5,000 years ago.
The other camp says it is a natural formation.
Author, Researcher Lloyd Pye Dies
2013 12 10
We’re grieved by the sad news that writer and researcher Lloyd Anthony Pye passed away yesterday, December 9, 2013, after a battle with cancer. He was best known for his work with The Starchild Project.
Lloyd was a frequent welcome guest to Red Ice Radio, and we enjoyed the opportunity to speak with him about his work and his writing over ...
Mars May Have Harbored Life 3.6 Billion Years Ago
2013 12 10
Mudstones from Gale Crater, the original landing site of Curiosity, were formed in a lake which may have existed on the planet for hundreds of thousand of years according to scientists.The basin which is 150km wide with a mountain at its centre, could very well have sustained more than one lake approximately 3.6 billion years ago.
Research analysis shows that the ...
Geologists discover ’super volcano’ in Utah, possibly larger than Yellowstone
2013 12 10
Geologists at Brigham Young University have discovered what may be the world’s largest "super" volcano that erupted in Utah’s own backyard.
While there are a variety of volcanoes that blast away in different ways, super volcanic eruptions are the biggest that collapse into large calderas. Yellowstone Park is the remains of one of those calderas and it’s still very much alive ...
Rice grown near crippled Fukushima nuclear plant served to govt officials
2013 12 10
Rice from fields in the Fukushima prefecture, evacuated after the worst nuclear disaster in Japan, will be served to government officials for 9 days in a bid to demonstrate the safety of the country’s most-beloved crop, a local broadcaster reported.
The rice cultivated in several decontaminated fields in the Yamakiya District in Kawamata Town and Iitate Village, two areas designated as ...
|More News » |