In the Valley of Hinnom, the Bible tells us, just outside Jerusalem, straying Israelites sacrificed their children to the pagan god Ba‘al. How widespread the practice was, we cannot be sure. We do know a great deal, however, about child sacrifice at several Phoenician sites, especially at the north African site of Carthage. There, a giant cemetery of child and animal sacrifices has been explored by modern archaeologists. In “Child Sacrifice at Carthage—Religious Rite or Population Control?” archaeologists Lawrence E. Stager and Samuel R. Wolff tell us the surprising things they learned concerning child sacrifice at Carthage—and some implications they derived for an understanding of child sacrifice as described in the Bible.
Both Stager and Wolff spent several years during the 1970s excavating the precinct of child sacrifice in Carthage for the ASOR Punic Project, Stager as director and Wolff as area supervisor. Stager is Associate Professor of Syro-Palestinian archaeology at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. He has also excavated at Idalion on Cyprus, and at Tell el-Hesi and Tell Gezer in Israel.