Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




This paper examines the controversies surrounding Phoenician religious practices and in particular, the Phoenician Tophet, a cemetery containing the cremated remains of infants and young children in clay jars. According to ancient Hebrew and Greek sources, in the ceremony known as mulk, the oldest son was placed on the arms of a bronze statue and dropped into a brazier below. Though these ancient authors were unanimous in criticizing Phoenician religious practices as cruel and savage, the use of these biased sources to conclude that child sacrifice did occur remains controversial. Both the Hebrew and Greek sources were xenophobic and furthermore, there are no Phoenician texts preserved that describe this religious practice. Hence, it is difficult to judge these rituals from a Phoenician viewpoint. Partly because of this, the interpretation of mulk and the Phoenician Tophets remains highly controversial within the academic world. The purpose of my research is to weigh the evidence in light of recent discoveries in North Africa (Carthage), Phoenicia (Tyre), the Greek island of Astypalaia (Kylindra Cemetery), Israel (Ashkelon), and Cyprus (Amathus) in an attempt to reach a balanced conclusion based on the evidence. In this paper, the Tophet at Carthage is first discussed, in particular the skeletal remains, the grave goods, and the stelae. In addition, other burial practices on mainland Phoenicia, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus are examined and then compared to the Tophet at Carthage in order to determine if the latter had distinct practices associated with it. The examination of the skeletal remains, the associated grave goods, and the stelae in the Tophet at Carthage and the comparisons of the burial practices suggest that the Phoenicians did indeed practice child sacrifice.

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Anthropology Commons