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Jessica Hughes (Open University): 'The Anatomy of Ritual: Votive Body Parts in Greco-Roman Antiquity and Beyond'

This Dr Jessica Hughes works at The Open University and is a co-founder of The Votives Project, a website and network for people who study, create or use votive offerings or other related ways of communicating with the divine. In this paper, she will introduce her research on anatomical votives in classical antiquity, the models of human body parts which were dedicated in sanctuaries all over the Greco-Roman world. She will discuss a range of votive materials, techniques, forms, and findspots, and consider how these objects can help us understand changing ideas about divine power and human frailty in the ancient Mediterranean. The seminar will also look at how the anatomical votive tradition developed in later times, drawing in particular on material from the Catholic Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary in the modern Italian city of Pompeii. How do these nineteenth- and twentieth-century metal anatomicals relate to the terracotta models that were dedicated in Roman temples down the road in ancient Pompeii? And how can this kind of comparative work contribute to our debates about material devotion and cultural memory? 

This event is part of the A Material World: Devotion events series, which brings together academics and heritage professionals from a wide range of disciplines to discuss issues concerning historical devotional materials, their conservation, presentation, display, and reconstruction.

Organisers: Rembrandt Duits (Acting Curator, The Photographic Collection, The Warburg Institute) and Louisa McKenzie (PhD student, The Warburg Institute).

All sessions during 2020-2021 will be delivered online.


Photo: © Gordon Plumb