A window onto Roman bioethics


The archeologists of a 2,000-year-old Roman villa in the Thames Valley are puzzled by the discovery of a mass burial of 97 new-born infants. Forensic examination of the skeletons found at the Yewden villa in Buckinghamshire suggests the inhabitants must have been systematically killing the children. Archaeologist Jill Evers believes that the villa may have been a brothel. She says that without contraception or abortion, the Romans would have had to kill newborns.

While shocking to modern sensibilities, researchers told the BBC that infants were not considered to be human beings in the fullest sense until they were about two years old. Children younger than this were seldom buried in cemeteries, but in the grounds of domestic sites.

The bones were actually unearthed and catalogued in 1921 and stored in cigarette and cartridge boxes in the Buckinghamshire County Museum. However they were lost until recently. Now archaeologists  plan to carry out DNA tests to establish the sex of the infants and whether they were related. ~ BBC, June 25

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | abortion, bioethics, infanticide

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