Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
3 Burials at Night: Children from Ancient Civilizations
Burials at Night
Children from Ancient Civilizations
Archaeological evidence excavated from what is known as Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, suggests that the Sumerians and Akkadians, the first civilized people, cared for their children; although evidence also suggests that first born children were often sacrificed. Further, the Sumerian code of laws, ana ittisu, which stated laws such as the fact that parents could give up children when it suited them, makes it difficult to interpret the ancient society’s concern for children. These contradictory ideals, which apply to many of the societies discussed here, illustrate the extent to which parental love is both dynamic and complex in the ancient world.
It is clear from the artifacts and writings left behind that Egyptian children were warmly cared for. Young children from all social classes were treated equally until school age. The tombs of children were often found with mummified pets to go with them on their journey to the afterlife. Premature infants, as well as their umbilicus, were also mummified. This practice leads historians to believe that Egyptian parents hoped that their infants would go on to be nourished through ← 37 | 38 → the umbilical cord, grow, and live the life they were meant to live. The Egyptians called the soul of a child ba, a bird with a human head.1
In ancient Egypt abandonment and infanticide were rare. In fact, the Egyptians were well known for rescuing...
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