From wanting to please the sun god to effectively preparing a leader for the afterlife, human sacrifice was a practice that many ancient civilizations either pondered or practiced at one point. In this article, we will continue to note some of the cultures that highlight a past in sacrificing the life of a child or a servant in order to receive something in return.
The Inca Empire of South America used to sacrifice children and teenagers to the sun god. The parents of the sacrificed children believed that they would receive a respected status for allowing their child to be sacrificed. The local community also believed that they would benefit from the sacrifice. Located in mountains that were considered sacred, the bodies of children were found on the summits. The freezing conditions of the mountains helped to preserve the bodies.
Mass Human Sacrifices in Egypt
Ancient societies also participating in mass human sacrifices, where deceased leaders were required to bring along their supporters and courtiers into the afterlife. Archeologists have uncovered tombs from the first dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs (3100-2890 BC) that had the graves of their courtiers surrounding their final resting place.
Since skeletons found in this manner lacked the signs of trauma that one would expect to see on the bodies of people who were given up for sacrifice, researchers believe that participants willingly gave up their life. Since this was a voluntary act, it is highly likely that they met their end after taking drugs to dull their senses. Evidence linking the ancient Egyptians to this practice seems to fade around 2800 BCE. The old practice was replaced with the burial of statues in the likeness of servants, which have been found in the tombs of leaders from the Old Kingdom.
If you study ancient Roman and Greek texts in search of examples pertaining to human sacrifice, you may come across details of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. According to the Romans and Greeks, these two cultures practiced the sacrifice of their infants, who were given up to the gods. Archeologists excavating sites associated with the Carthaginians have come across deposits containing the bones of infants.
According to the Bible, it is mentioned that children were at a place known as the Tophet (which translates into the roasting place) to the god Moloch. Yet, throughout the years, conflicting stories have existed on the subject of human sacrifice and the Carthaginians.
Plutarch (46-120 AD) and other historians, such as Orosius, Diodorus Siculus, Tertullian, and Philo all mentioned that the practice existed. Diodorus Siculus once wrote about the Carthaginians that: “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.” However, Plutarch stated that the children were already dead at the time of their sacrifice. It was believed that the consent of both the parents and the children were needed to carry out a sacrifice.