This urn comes from a religious precinct in Carthage known as the tophet where such jars contained the cremated bodies of babies, small children and animals, which had been sacrificed to the goddess Tanit and her consort Baal Hammon. Often a funerary stela was set up over the urn: an example with a dedication to Baal is in the British Museum. The style of the jar owes nothing to the traditions of North Africa, but can be traced back to Canaan in the late second millennium BC. The Canaanites of the Levant coast (known as Phoenicians) grew rich by supplying luxury materials to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran. Their natural harbours became major ports for handling international shipping. Commercial contacts were expanded across the Mediterranean and resulted in the establishment of colonies. According to tradition, Carthage was founded in 814 BC, though archaeological evidence shows no sign of occupation of the site until about 730 BC. It rapidly became the dominant Phoenician colony, and came into conflict first with the Greeks and then with the Romans. The Romans referred to the Carthaginians as Poeni, from which the term Punic derives.

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  • Title: Burial urn
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 9.50cm; Width: 10.00cm (maximum)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Registration number: 1927,0108.1
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Tanit Precinct
  • Period/culture: Phoenician/Punic
  • Material: pottery; human bone
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Harden, Donald Benjamin. Excavated by Kelsey, Francis Willey. Donated by French Archaeological Authorities, Tunisia