Art and Architecture of Ancient Rome, £9.99
Terracotta votive womb
Italy, 400-200 BC
It was common practice in antiquity to place terracotta models of body parts in the 'healing sanctuaries' that were scattered across southern Etruria, Latium and Campania, down the western side of Italy. The afflicted part of the body was represented, either in thanks for a cure or in the hope of finding one.
In the case of the wombs it may be that the votary hoped to conceive. There is one known instance where the womb is represented in a flaccid state, indicating the mother had died, perhaps as the result of a Caesarean section, which illustrates the extent of medical knowledge of the period.
On this example the cervix is clearly represented, as are muscular ripples suggesting contraction during childbirth. Other model wombs have a small pellet of clay inside them that rattles and which probably reflect the desire for fertility.