(More) Evidence of Human Sacrifice from Crete?

Another one from ANSA:

A new discovery made during archaeological digs on the Greek island of Crete confirms the hypothesis, already advanced in the past, that over 3,000 years ago human beings, and not only animals, were sacrificed to local gods.

The site in which the artefacts were discovered is on the hill of Castelli near Splazia, in the area of the city of Chania, the second city of Crete on the north-western part of the island, built in 1252 at the order of the 44th Doge of Venice Marino Morosini over the ancient city of Cydonia.

The excavations led to the discovery of many tombs and ceramic vases from the Mycenaean period, buildings similar to Mycenaean palaces, frescoes from the Minoan era, fragments of a vase with linear B writing used in Mycenaean language, Roman statues, fragments of mosaics from Hellenic and Christian eras and animal and human bones including the skull of a young woman allegedly dating back to 1280 BC which would prove that humans were also sacrificed 3,000 years ago during religious rites, and not just animals.

The bones were discovered in the corner of a court outside which, according to the evidence found, was beside the royal palace of the city of Cydonia built like buildings from the Mycenaean period between 1375 and 1200 BC.

‘Under the stones placed in an ordered way we found what we expected: the skull of a young woman, not in one piece, amid animal skulls. It was broken, just like the others, with a strong blow to the forehead’, said archaeologist Maria Andreadakis-Vlazakis, director of antiquities and cultural heritage at the Greek culture ministry, who directs excavation work.

The artifacts show that an important settlement that would gradually become the city of Cydonia was already in the area in the Neolithic period, the researcher said at a conference on ‘Chania’ in the Minoan era’ held at the headquarters of Greece’s Association of archaeologists.

‘We believe the woman was killed during a human sacrifice and not of animals’, said Andreadakis, referring to the skull found. ‘We have not yet drawn the final conclusions, we need to study the bones much more closely. By the month of October however we will be ready to present the results at the international archaeology congress in Milan on the theme of human sacrifices in ancient history. The findings from excavations in Chania’ will be the main topic of the congress’.

Excavation work, involving the 25th Superintendency of classic antiquities in cooperation with the Swedish and Danish archeological institutes, have been ongoing since 2005 and the most important artifacts were discovered in 2012.

‘The presence of the human skull must not surprise us as Greek mythology is full of stories of sacrifices of virgins in an attempt made by society to ingratiate gods and confront great disasters’, said Andreadakis.

Now despite tales of the Minotaur, and the like, scholars of our generation(s) have tended to be skeptical of claims of human sacrifice among the Greeks, especially the folks on Crete. I don’t think we have a scholarly consensus yet, but folks might want to peruse news reports from the past which mention other finds which might make you go hmmmmm:

From 1979 from Heraklion (this is the work/find of Ioannis Sakellerakis)

From back in 1980 near Heraklion (clearly the same site; more details):

And on the mainland, we’ve heard of possible human sacrifice at Mt Lykaion:

The Underworld that is the London Underground

… or something like that. Here’s the incipit of an item from the Independent about something the Iris Project folks did:

It’s easy to imagine the designer of the latest alternative London Underground Tube map, finding herself surrounded by swathes of exhausted and seemingly half-dead commuters, inspired to re-work the iconic design as a map of the Greek underworld.

‘The Underworld’ map cleverly re-imagines the traditional London Underground map to advertise a project by the educational charity The Iris Project.

The map shows the black line that usually represents the Northern Line replaced with the ‘Hades Line’, named after the Greek god of the underworld, while the District Line becomes the Kokytos Line – the river of the wailing.

While tourists famously struggle to pronounce stop names including Leicester Square, Southwark and Greenwich, the Iris Project have included tongue-twisting imaginary stations on their map including: Hekatonkheires – impossibly strong giants with a hundred hands and fifty heads – and Pyriphlegethon – a stream of fire.

The map is being used to promote a community myth day event hosted by the charity at the East Oxford Community Classics Centre, at Cheney Comprehensive School, for school pupils and local members of the community. [...]

… and, of course, the map itself:

Perhaps other subway systems lend themselves to the Twelve Labours of Hercules or something else? (Yes, that’s a challenge …)

Decian Libellus from Luther College

Interesting item:

In January, nine papyri documents almost 2,000 years old were discovered by a student in the Luther College library archives, where they had remained hidden in a cardboard box for decades.

Luther sophomore Brittany Anderson was conducting a routine inventory of the papers of the late Orlando W. Qualley, longtime professor of classics and dean of the college, when she came across the nine ancient documents among Qualley’s letters and journals donated to the college in the 1980s. The papyri-one of which, a libellus, is especially rare-date from the first to the fifth centuries A.D. and were apparently purchased by Qualley from an antiquities dealer when he was part of a University of Michigan archaeological excavation at Karanis, south of Cairo, in 1924-25.

“Luther College is incredibly fortunate to have in its possession the Qualley papyri, especially the libellus, a rare and invaluable find from the early centuries of Christian history,” said Philip Freeman, Qualley Chair of Ancient Languages at Luther. “As soon as they are properly preserved, we hope to display all the papyri in our library for everyone to see. They provide a great opportunity for our students to examine a genuine piece of the ancient world.”

The nine papyri, written in ancient Greek, measure from 5 to 20 centimeters in length and are in remarkably good shape, though all are fragmentary and quite fragile. Papyrus was the primary writing medium of the ancient world and was made from the interwoven fibers of the papyrus plant, which grows along the banks of the Nile River.

Upon finding the documents, Anderson contacted the Luther Classics Department faculty, who examined the papyri and in turn contacted the Papyrus Collection staff at the University of Michigan, one of the leading centers of papyrus study in the world, for help in identifying and analyzing the discoveries. Several are accounting documents, but papyrologist Graham Claytor immediately identified one as a libellus dating from the first great Roman persecution of Christians beginning under Emperor Decius in the year 250.

Decius issued a decree that year ordering all inhabitants of the empire to offer a sacrifice to the gods as a show of loyalty. A libellus was a document given to a Roman citizen to confirm the performance of such a sacrifice. Christians were forbidden by their beliefs from performing these sacrifices and were thus subject to arrest, torture and execution for refusing to obey the emperor’s decree. Pope Fabian was among those who refused to sacrifice and was subsequently killed by the Roman authorities.

The Luther College libellus bears the name of Aurelius Ammon, a servant of the well-attested Aurelius Appianus, a leading citizen of Alexandria, Egypt. It declares that Aurelius Ammon has sacrificed “in accordance with the orders” of the emperor. The papyrus was probably part of a collection made in ancient times from the village of Theadelphia in Egypt’s Fayum region. Only a few of these rare documents have been uncovered, and they are currently housed in research libraries in Hamburg, Berlin, Manchester, Florence, and the University of Michigan. Now Decorah, Iowa, joins the list.

Luther College plans to work with the University of Michigan to preserve all the Qualley papyri and make them available online in digital format to scholars and people around the world.

I wonder if this (specifically the libellus) was from the Heroninos Archive, which is where we get most of our information about Aurelius Appianus … these Decian libelli caused me a bit of confusion when I was doing my MA on legal libelli …

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