Abortion: Child Sacrifice Today? -- By: John Currid

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 25:1 (Winter 2012)
Article: Abortion: Child Sacrifice Today?
Author: John Currid

Abortion: Child Sacrifice Today?

John Currid

People often ask me what has been my most interesting and rewarding archaeological experience. Apart from watching Raiders of the Lost Ark five times, I would have to say it was serving as a Field Supervisor of the excavations at Carthage in Tunisia. The effort to unearth the city of Carthage has been a tremendous international endeavor, including archaeological teams from Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere. The city has undergone intensive, full-scale excavations from the 1970’s until today.

Carthage is a port site located in northern Tunisia on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC, roughly the time that Ahab and Jezebel were on the thrones of Israel. The Phoenicians resided on the northern coast of Israel and were well-known for their seafaring exploits. They colonized much of the Mediterranean world in antiquity, moving from Phoenicia to Cyprus, North Africa, Italy, Corsica, and Spain (some have even suggested that they discovered the New World).

They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.

Psalm 106:36–38, ESV

The most important colony founded by the Phoenicians was Carthage. Many people know of the city because of famous events associated with it, such as the great wars with Rome, Hannibal and his elephants, or Virgil’s Aeneid.

The most significant part of the American excavations occurred in the Tophet. The word Tophet comes from the Old Testament (e.g., 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:30–32), referring to a place of a child sacrifice and burial. Modern excavators applied the term Tophet to a cemetery we excavated bearing remains of children who had been ritually sacrificed as burnt offerings. It is the largest sacrificial cemetery ever found, measuring at least 60,000 square feet. Most stunning is the number of children sacrificed here—estimated at a minimum of 20,000 burials between 400–200 BC during only one-third the life of the cemetery!

The Phoenicians’ barbaric practice of child sacrifice was well-attested in antiquity. Consider, for example, the comments of the Greek author Kleitarchos in the third century BC:

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