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There are now 4 comments... what are your thoughts?
  1. B.J. says

    “It’s never come up.”

    I see what you did there.

  2. nick012000 says

    Who exactly were the people who sacrificed babies during the construction of a new house? I’ve heard about the ancient Pheonicians sacrificing infants to Moloch in the fire in return for his blessings, and the Mexica sacrificing prisoners to prevent the world from ending, but I haven’t heard about this particular practice before.

    • It’s not something you hear much about in school, but it’s very well documented. Look up “foundation sacrifice,” “construction sacrifice,” or “intramural burial.” There is significant archaeological and cultural evidence for the practice across Eurasia, from Europe to Southeast Asia and beyond to Indonesian islands. It was especially common around the fertile crescent from Egypt up to Turkey.

      As I say, narratives that fit… stick. This is a narrative with real staying power. You can find European folk beliefs persisting up through the 1800s, and in Indonesia it was practiced (albeit by kidnapping child victims) in the construction of modern buildings as recently as the late 20th century. In Uganda today, you can pay a witch doctor to sacrifice a (kidnapped) child at a construction site. There’s even an entire genre of folklore, found all over the world, that derives from beliefs that a building must have a person sacrificed at its construction.

      Its relevance here is as part of the profound societal changes during the lead-up to the Bronze Age. Infants and small children died all the time, of course, and were buried under their houses like anyone else (only in jars or small pits). But these are a special category of burial beneath the threshold itself, taking place before construction or major renovation of a house. Later, you find adults sacrificed at the groundbreaking of large civic buildings, and there would be many different kinds of human sacrifice around the globe in ages to come, both for protection like this kind, and for the appeasement of gods.

      And that’s not even mentioning a major category of human sacrifice we’ll be seeing for the first time in just a couple of pages!

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