The backlash against the notion of Carthaginian child sacrifice began in the second half of the 20th century and was led by scholars from Tunisia and Italy, the very countries in which tophets have been found.
Dr Quinn added: ‘Carthage was far bigger than Athens and for many centuries much more important than Rome, but it is something of a forgotten city today.
‘If we accept that child sacrifice happened on some scale, it begins to explain why the colony was founded in the first place.
‘Perhaps the reason the people who established Carthage and its neighbours left their original home of Phoenicia – modern-day Lebanon – was because others there disapproved of their unusual religious practice.
‘Child abandonment was common in the ancient world, and human sacrifice is found in many historical societies, but child sacrifice is relatively uncommon. Perhaps the future Carthaginians were like the Pilgrim Fathers leaving from Plymouth – they were so fervent in their devotion to the gods that they weren’t welcome at home any more.
‘Dismissing the idea of child sacrifice stops us seeing the bigger picture.’