Friday, November 6, 2020

Anatomical votives in the Greco-Roman World

  "Votive offerings have been part of the human relationship with gods and belief from pre-history to the present. Today we might light a candle, a stick of incense, lay a bunch of flowers or in some Catholic churches people still leave a wax body part by way of a votive offering, but in the ancient world the practice was more wide-ranging, literal and multifaceted. The ancient Greeks and Romans offered them to a deity to bring good fortune or to grant favours and they were an important expression of their personal relationship with their gods and goddesses." - Richard Moss, Museum Crush:

Moss lavishly illustrates his article with votive objects from the Wellcome Collection, the Science Museum, and the British Museum in London.  He also mentions The Votives Project, a cross-cultural and multi-period effort to study votive material and contexts.  Participants' research include such diverse studies as votive musical instruments in ancient Greece, votive reliefs in the highlands of southwest Anatolia, anatomical votives from the Ascleopieion in ancient Corinth, arm and leg votives from Mikata Ishikanzeon Dou, Japan, wax infant votives from Cyprus, Etruscan votives, and even curse tablets as votives. The project even encompasses the study of modern era votive practices. 

You can read more about these studies on the project website at

Image: Votive female viscera, Roman, 200 BCE-200 CE. Credit: Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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