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Terracotta votive offering in the shape of placenta, Roman, 200 BCE-200 CE

Objects like this were left at healing sanctuaries and other religious sites as offerings to gods such as Asklepios, the Greco-Roman god of medicine. They were intended either to represent the part of the body that needed help, or offered as thanks for a cure. A large number of the votive offerings in the Wellcome collections are in the shape of reproductive organs, reflecting a society that placed great emphasis on fertility, but which also ran great risks in pregnancy and childbirth. This votive is in the shape of a placenta, perhaps requesting a pregnancy or a safe childbirth.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: votive offering

Objects or monuments donated by an individual for a public place or shrine. The object is usually given in gratitude for deliverance from distress.

Glossary: fertility

The natural capacity to give birth.

Glossary: placenta

The placenta is an organ, rooted to the lining of the womb, which links an unborn baby's blood supply to the mother’s. By linking to the mother's blood supply, the placenta carries out functions that the unborn baby cannot.