1st Edition

Bodies of Evidence
Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future

ISBN 9780367595579
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
288 Pages

USD $48.95

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Book Description

Dedicating objects to the divine was a central component of both Greek and Roman religion. Some of the most conspicuous offerings were shaped like parts of the internal or external human body: so-called ‘anatomical votives’. These archaeological artefacts capture the modern imagination, recalling vividly the physical and fragile bodies of the past whilst posing interpretative challenges in the present. This volume scrutinises this distinctive dedicatory phenomenon, bringing together for the first time a range of methodologically diverse approaches which challenge traditional assumptions and simple categorisations. The chapters presented here ask new questions about what constitutes an anatomical votive, how they were used and manipulated in cultural, cultic and curative contexts and the complex role of anatomical votives in negotiations between humans and gods, the body and its disparate parts, divine and medical healing, ancient assemblages and modern collections and collectors. In seeking to re-contextualise and re-conceptualise anatomical votives this volume uniquely juxtaposes the medical with the religious, the social with the conceptual, the idea of the body in fragments with the body whole and the museum with the sanctuary, crossing the boundaries between studies of ancient religion, medicine, the body and the reception of antiquity.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Notes on Contributors



Introduction: Debating the Anatomical Votive

Emma-Jayne Graham and Jane Draycott

Chapter 1: Corpora in Connection: Anatomical Votives and the Confession Stelai of Lydia and Phrygia

Justine Potts

Chapter 2: Partible Humans and Permeable Gods: Anatomical Votives and Personhood in the Sanctuaries of Central Italy

Emma-Jayne Graham

Chapter 3: Anatomical Votives (and Swaddled Babies): from Republican Italy to Roman Gaul

Olivier de Cazanove

Chapter 4: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Use of Real, False and Artificial Hair as Votive Offerings

Jane Draycott

Chapter 5: Demeter as an Ophthalmologist? Eye Votives and the Cult of Demeter and Kore

Georgia Petridou

Chapter 6: Wombs for the Gods

Rebecca Flemming

Chapter 7: Ritual and Meaning: Contextualising Votive Terracotta Infants in Hellenistic Italy

Fay Glinister

Chapter 8: The foot as gnṓrisma

Sara Chiarini

Chapter 9: The Open Man: Anatomical Votive Busts Between the History of Medicine and Archaeology

Laurent Haumesser

Chapter 10: Fragmentation and the Body’s Boundaries: Reassessing the Body in Parts

Ellen Adams

Chapter 11: Votive Genitalia in the Wellcome Collection: Modern Receptions of Ancient Sexual Anatomy

Jen Grove

Chapter 12: Votive Futures: an Afterword

Jessica Hughes



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Jane Draycott is Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in Ancient Science and Technology at the University of Glasgow, UK. Her research focuses on health and well-being in antiquity. She has published on a wide range of subjects relating to the history and archaeology of medicine.

Emma-Jayne Graham is Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, UK. Her research focuses on the archaeology of Roman Italy, with a particular interest in the treatment of the body and its representation in material culture. She has published on mortuary practices, infant health and death, sensory experience and the materiality of votive religion.


"...this volume accomplishes its goals well and paves the way for future studies on anatomical votives beyond the typological. The authors show that such dedications were not limited to the healing sanctuaries of Classical Greece and that their meanings went beyond simple equations between object and body."

- Debby Sneed, University of California, Los Angeles, USA, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018


"The editors' introduction lays out the inherent problems, challenges, and questions related to this material, such as definitions and terminology, ancient contexts, medical significance, and meanings with the religious setting. This is an ambitious attempt to bring together many different types, times, and places of relevance, as well as to present 'deliberately diverse approaches' to the archaeological material. Also welcome are chapters that incorporate the appearance of anatomical votices in modern art or their role in modern collecting ... Several themes cut across the chapters, including gender, age, and social status, as well as physical appearance, sexuality, reproduction, and personhood."

- Tyler Jo Smith, University of Virginia, USA, Religious Studies Review 2017


"Although it is focused on Classical Antiquity strictly defined, the work will be of interest to Byzantinist-historians of medicine as it opens new perspectives for the analysis of an archeological genre all too often neglected."

-Touwaide, Byzantinische Zeitschrift issue 110 (= 2017/4).


"In short, the essays assembled in this volume offer a rich and rewarding assortment of perspectives from which to view the practice of dedicating the material representation of a body part at a sanctuary of later curating such an object in a collection focused on medical history or reimagining the fragmented human body in a work of art.;

- Rebecca Miller Ammerman, Colgate University