A tophet means a sacred precinct outside a city used for burials of sacrifices. In English it also means hell. Which is fitting, because recent evidence from Carthage's tophets contained tiny cremated human bones packed into urns and buried underneath tombstones with inscriptions that gave thanks to the gods. A recent study found that these burials were evidence that Carthage practiced infant sacrifice. As evidence, the researchers cited the inscriptions on the tombstones, which recorded that the gods had “heard my voice and blessed me." Some urns contained animal remains which have definitely been sacrificed and were buried in the exact same way as the children. Finally, the discovered skeletons were far too few to represent all the stillbirths and infant deaths that would occur in a city the size of Carthage 2,000 years ago. The evidence points towards elite Carthaginians engaging in child sacrifice to give thanks for blessings they have received from the gods.
Roman historian Diodorus claimed that in the city of Carthage there was a bronze statue of Cronus with his hands extended, palm up. All babies placed within would roll down into a pit of fire. The historian even made mention of rich families who bought poor children and raised them specifically for sacrifice. Romans and Greeks dismissed Diodorus' claims as anti-Carthaginian propaganda. But modern archaeology may have vindicated him -- though frankly this is something that he probably would have been happy to be wrong about.
Quetzalcoatlus, the largest known flying animal ever, was as tall as a giraffe. It flew over North America during the Late Cretaceous, about 100.5–66 million years ago. The name comes from the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl.
The Book of Joshua offers what many historians believe to be one of the first recorded instances of a solar eclipse, which occurred on October 30, 1207 BCE.
From Jaina Island's cemetary, where archaeologists have found figurines cradled in the arms of the deceased. This figurine is special because rather than depicting the deceased as a robust young adult, it shows a proud elderly warrior. He is definitely a warrior because he holds a flexible, rectangular shield in his right hand and wears a quilted armor tunic, both being requisite for Maya warriors during this period.
Earthenware figure, crafted sometime between 550 CE and 850 CE.
A six-inch-long (10 cm) fragment of a ceramic figurine, apparently a woman’s torso, has been unearthed at the site of a workshop in northeastern Bulgaria near the coast of the Black Sea. The torso is decorated with stamped lines criss-cross the front and the back. There are also encrusted geometric motifs which might have been depicting clothing. The complete statue is thought to have stood about 12 inches tall when it was created sometime in the brief Middle Chalcolithic period, between 4700 and 4600 BCE.
In the early 1900s, sex glands from animals were transplanted into human males in an effort to rejuvenate their sex hormones and counteract aging. Unsurprisingly, it did not work as intended. And the side effects were often fatal.
In 1577, King Philip II of Spain wanted to know whom he was ruling and where in his vast kingdom they were. So his viceroy asked the indigenous groups in what is now Mexico to draw some maps for him.
In response, they drew maps blending indigenous and Spanish traditions. Sometimes rivers are straight, with tiny arrows in the middle, to indicate which way they flow. Paths have footprints or hoofprints in the middle, to indicate whether the paths can be walked or ridden. These beautiful maps, and their way of recording the landscape, are a silent testimony to the survival of indigenous worldviews into the late 1500s. Read the full National Public Radio article on the maps here.
In 1925, a Massachusetts woman agreed to give her husband a divorce, provided that he built for her an exact duplicate of the house that they shared in the local town. He built her house: on an uninhabited island without a fresh water source. Because the house had to be an exact replica it had pipes and running water -- filled with unusable saltwater. The house is affectionately known as "The Pink House" and is now owned by the US government as part of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit to Shawn Fitzgerald
On the Island of South Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland is a peculiar tomb. The site is a chambered tomb, built into the cliff's edge around 3,500 BCE, and it wasn't re-discovered until the 1950s. As you probably guessed from this post's title, the tomb is the final resting place of 8 to 20 people -- and 14 white sea eagles. Recent dating tells us the people were buried in it about 1,000 years before the eagles were. It's an amazing example of how a neolithic tomb was in use for many generations, and evolved in its meaning over time. Personally, I think its pretty cool that 1,000 years after their ancestors died, someone added eagles to accompany them.