Last weekend we posted a link to Caroline Lawrence’s post about her visit to the Wellcome Collection. Serendipitously, the Wellcome Collection’s own blog also has an item of interest under the title Ancient objects shed light on how people once understood their bodies. It includes this photo from the collection:
… and we are told it’s an Etruscan depiction of a uterus. The post correctly notes:
This observational understanding of medicine provides an interesting perspective when looking at the votives we have in the gallery. The knowledge of what was going on inside the body was limited, so what couldn’t be observed would have been assumed. If we take the votive uterus pictured above as an example, we can see that there was little knowledge of what the organ actually looked like. Autopsies would not have been carried out at this time; there are isolated cases in third-century BCE Alexandria, but these are not the norm. The form of this votive is based on assumptions and what observation could have been made.
… so how do we know it’s supposed to be a uterus? There’s another one here (it might be the same …), also identified as a “female uterus” (to distinguish it from the male version, of course) … and another … I’m curious about the identification …
ADDENDUM (a few days later): in a similar vein, see Kristina Kilgrove’s very interesting post: Using Votives to Visualize Reproductive Anatomy in Antiquity