pre-christian germanic eugenics

from Children and Material Culture [pg. 184]:

“Citing documentary evidence, Molleson notes that Germanic tribes in continental Europe subjected newborn infants to rigorous ‘fitness’ tests by immersion in running water. If the infant survived it was kept, if not the body was simply left in the river. Because of the lack of infant burials on British Anglo-Saxon sites, Molleson suggests that Germanic tribes may have brought this custom with them to England.”

that’s pretty harsh. =/ wonder whose job it was to take the baby to the river?

(note: comments do not require an email. question about eugenics.)

6 Comments

  1. Interesting. I’ve heard something similar practiced by the Japanese. Complete hearsay though, I never researched its validity.

    Reply

  2. I’m guessing that maternal hormones haven’t changed that much in a 1000 years. You try taking one too many kids from a healthy woman and dunking them in frigid European creeks and rivers…. Whoever had that job wouldn’t last very long!

    My wife’s as refined and gentle a woman as there ever was. Try crossing her sons, and she’ll turn into a raging barbarian.

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  3. Because of the lack of infant burials on British Anglo-Saxon sites, Molleson suggests that Germanic tribes may have brought this custom with them to England.

    Were there a lot of infant burials in past areas of Germanic tribe settlement?

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  4. @rjp – “Were there a lot of infant burials in past areas of Germanic tribe settlement?”

    not in the cemetaries, no. in fact, there weren’t even many young children buried in the cemetaries amongst the saxons on the continent, the alamanni or the franks. see pg. 85-6 and 104+ here.

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  5. @jayman – “Interesting. I’ve heard something similar practiced by the Japanese.”

    i wondered if anyone else had a similar practice or maybe tested infants in some other way. if you have to cull some infants, it makes sense to cull the weakest ones and not just infants at random (because then you might be culling some of the stronger ones).

    still very harsh. i’d be with wes’ wife on this one!

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  6. @wes – “I’m guessing that maternal hormones haven’t changed that much in a 1000 years.”

    but people all over the world have been killing infants for millennia, so it is possible. i agree with you though — i doubt it was the mothers doing this! i’d place my bet on the grandmothers. these are the sorts of things grandmothers always seem to be doing — i’m thinking of female circumcision, for instance. pretty typically, mom has to be kept away from the procedure. it’s usually grandma that brings the girl(s) to the “surgeon.”

    Reply

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