Digging Up Bones

By | December 8, 2018

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Roman Bath House (Photo from Ancient Origins)

Archaeological finds can lead to some interesting information and stories from the past. Some of those stories are true but there are others that come from myths or theories but are still very intriguing.

A gruesome discovery was found while exploring the city sewers of Aschkelon by Ross Voss, an archaeologist. He found a large number of small bones which he originally thought were chicken bones. As it turned out later, it was actually the remains of over 100 babies. As a true curious historian, he wanted to know what happened and why so he took the remains to Professor Patrician Smith, a forensic anthropologist. After examination, she was able to determine there was no reason medically that these infants should have died because they were perfectly healthy at the time of their death. Utilizing specific forensic testing, she was further able to determine that none of the infants had lived longer than a week. 

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Romulus en Remus (Wikimedia Commons)

During the time of the Romans, because there were no birth control methods available back then, it was not uncommon for women to participate in the practice of “exposure.” The Romans did not believe that newborns were “fully human” so it was not considered a crime. The way the practice of “exposure” worked was the woman would abandon the baby to be either cared for by someone else or perish and it was pretty much left up to the “gods” to determine the outcome.

The legend of Romulus and Remus is the most famous account of “near” infanticide. This story was taught to children in the Roman schools so it became set in stone (so to speak). Romulus and Remus were the infant sons of Rhea Silvia (descendant of Aeneas, a great hero of the Trojan War and son of Venus) and Mars, the god of war (or Hercules). They were abandoned and put into a basket, then placed in the Tiber River. The basket was then found by a female wolf who nursed them for a while until a shepherd found them and raised them. When they grew up into adulthood, they wanted to become the founders of the city where the wolf found them but they argued over where the site was. Romulus killed his brother, Remus so he alone named the city Rome in 753 B.C.