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Copy of clay liver used for divination, original from Babylon, 2050-1750 BCE

Divination was used by the Babylonians in Mesopotamia in attempts to predict the future, including the course and outcome of an illness or disease. The liver of an animal was interpreted in a practice called hepatoscopy. Specific areas of the body were examined closely and small sticks were placed in the hole of a corresponding clay model, like this one. The pattern of the sticks was examined and interpreted by priests and diviners. The original dates from 2050-1750 BCE and is at the British Museum.

Object number:

1982-898

 

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Glossary: liver

Organ that plays a major role in metabolism, digestion, and elimintation of substances in the body.In the warm-blooded animals the liver is usually of a dark reddish-brown colour. In man it is situated below the diaphragm, and is divided by fissures into five lobes. A human can last only 24 hours without liver function.

Glossary: hepatoscopy

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Glossary: divination

The practice of seeking knowledge of the future through the interpretation of omens or other supernatural means.