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date: 07 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

High infant mortality is an acknowledged fact of life in antiquity. However, infant burials are relatively rare, and Greek sources offer little information on views of the newborn dead. This chapter uses analysis of bones and artifacts recovered from a single, abandoned well in the Athenian Agora to examine the disposal of infants who died in the perinatal period. The skeletons of infants, deposited along with dogs and pottery during a short period in the second century BCE, are demonstrated to be the remains of perinatal infants. Many of the infants died of natural causes. The dog skeletons are arguably associated with purification following childbirth and the pollution associated with untimely death.

Keywords: Athens, Agora, Hellenistic pottery, infant osteology, infanticide, paleopathology, perinatal death

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