A Matter of Honor? Evidence of Brutal Child Sacrifice Surfaces in Ancient Mesopotamia
The 5,000-year-old bodies of a 12-year-old a boy and girl surrounded by “hundreds of bronze spearheads and eight human sacrifices” were unearthed at Basur Höyük in southeastern Turkey (Mesopotamia,) in 2014. A report published last week in the journal Antiquity said “ Six of the human sacrifice victims ranged in age from 11 to 20 years old” and they had all been “deposited in a single event.”
Brenna Hasset, a post-doctoral researcher of archaeology at the Natural History Museum in London and Haluk Sağlamtimur, an archaeology professor at Ege University in Izmir, Turkey told reporters at Live Science that the bodies were “furnished with an unprecedented number of high-status grave goods for the period and the region.”
The excavation site at Basur H öyük, Turkey. ( Başur Höyük Research Project )
Quite a Sacrifice
Hasset also told reporters that "from the careful dressing and positioning of the bodies outside the door to the main chamber, it seems all eight would have been ‘retainer sacrifices." Hold on a second! Is it just me? But the gentle term ‘retainer sacrifice’ rings of an archaeological term for people who were brutally murdered to serve their masters, in the afterlife. And a bit of proving reveals that this is exactly what’s going on.
Before writing an article it is my duty to read as much material as possible relating to any given story. In this case, I am astounded at the hordes of writers who say ‘retainer sacrifice’ then move on without giving this phrase a second thought. I find this almost disrespectful. I mean we are talking about human sacrifice like its ‘the norm’, without giving readers an insight into what in my opinion makes ‘retainer sacrifice’ a particularly brutal way to go.
- The Real Reason Ancient Indo-Europeans Carried Out Human Sacrifice
- Why Did Early Human Societies Practice Violent Human Sacrifice?
- Dismembered Remains Tell Horrifying Tale of Ritual Human Sacrifice in Ancient Crete
Retainer Sacrifice in Mesopotamia
‘Retainer sacrifice’ was practiced often within the royal tombs of ancient Mesopotamia and it is an archaeological myth that ‘devoted people' happily sipped a vial of poison and passed over peacefully. According to a 2009 New York Times article, archaeologists at the University of Pennsylvania conducted CT scans of two skulls from the 4,500-year-old royal cemetery at Ur, in modern-day Iraq, which were excavated in the 1920s. The results revealed the extent of the “grisly human sacrifices associated with elite burials in ancient Mesopotamia.”
Bronze spearheads were found in the recently examined tomb of the 12-year-old children. (Image: Basur Höyük Research Project, Antiquity )
The research project was led by Janet M. Monge, a physical anthropologist at Penn, who found “Two round holes in the soldier’s cranium and one in the woman’s, each about an inch in diameter… with cracks radiating from the holes.” Dr. Monge said in an interview that “the pattern of fractures along stress lines were made in a living person.” Monge concluded that as part of “royal mortuary ritual, handmaidens and grooms, courtiers, guards and musicians were not dosed with poison to meet death serenely” but they were put to death by having “a sharp instrument, such as a pike, driven into their heads.”
- The practice of sacrifice in Iron Age Britain
- The Sunghir Burial Site: Were these Two Children Sacrificed in a Form of Prehistoric Scapegoating?
- Throwing Virgins into the Sea and Other Ways to Appease the Gods: The Ancient Reasons behind Virgin Sacrifice
Brutal death was customary in Mesopotamia. Naram Sin victory stele, Louvre. ( Public Domain )
It’s all about Honor!
All over the ancient world, the act of sacrificing oneself was intricately linked with concepts of “honor.” A highly ritualized aspect of Samurai life and death in feudal Japan was a self-sacrifice ritual called seppuku (or harakiri.) According to the Encyclopedia Britannica , this was undertaken to “restore their honor and to show solidarity with a recently deceased lord.”
Warriors began by eating their favorite meals, dressed in their best robes, then wrote and recited a death poem. Ultimately they "plunged a short sword into the left side of his abdomen, draw the blade laterally across to the right, and then turn it upward.” Finally, the samurai was decapitated. Trying to rationalize this act, Dr. Monge said “It’s almost like mass murder and hard for us to understand.” And like the Samurais in Japan Dr. Monge thinks that to have devoted one’s life to being a sacrificial victim, is about honor: “these were positions of great honor, and you lived well in the court, so it was a trade-off.”
Still from 1962 film Harakiri. ( CC BY 2.0 )
Hold on right there Dr. Monge. A 2016 Live Science article described how fighting cattle are raised on specialized ranches and breeders determine which bulls will fight in battles, in which Spanish matadors will eventually plunge their swords between the bull's shoulders. They too, are also brought up really well compared to the ‘herd!’ It’s 2018 and the entire concept of sacrifice, whether self, human or animal, is barbaric.
But maybe I am being too quick! Maybe ‘self-sacrifice’ is nature’s way of regulating the number of idiots that populate the human gene pool? For it is a fact, that any parent that can willingly give up their child for riches in the here and now, or in a perceived afterlife, are really going to hold the pack back! What a grotesque weakness in materialism!
Top image: The tomb with 8 human sacrifices at the entrance and 2 skeletal remains within. Source: Ba ̧sur Höyük Research Project, Antiquity
By Ashley Cowie