“Now that we can use DNA to tell whether the babies were male or female, we’re starting to revise the commonly held assumptions about infanticide in the Roman world,” said Kristina Killgrove, a bioarchaeologist at the University of West Florida, who was not involved in the research.
As horrifying as the killing of newborns seems to modern people, in ancient Rome, babies weren’t considered fully human upon birth, Mays said. Instead, they gained humanity over time, first with their naming a few days after birth, and later when they cut teeth and could eat solid food.
An interesting article. It’s always amazing to me how different human cultures can be. Anthropologists, of course, are always telling us how wide the range of human behavior is, but reminders are often startling.
Rome is usually thought to be more like us than other ancient civilizations, but apparently that similarity is relative. I remember learning in college that they were the ones who put a stop to infant exposure in the ancient world. It looks like the college professor who told me that might have had his facts mangled. Or maybe it was the Romans in late antiquity that ended the practice?
Someone on HuffPost comment thread told me that many Asian cultures don’t regard a newborn as a person until they’re 100 days old, and then have a party to celebrate its personhood. I suspect this originated due to the fact that, historically, many babies didn’t make it to 100 days.
- Swarthy, blue-eyed caveman revealed using DNA from ancient tooth (theguardian.com)
- Gallery of Work From Sixth Grade Ancient Rome (theparentingpassageway.com)
- Rome and Western Civilization (coolstuph.wordpress.com)