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From the CLASSICISTS mailing list.

BODIES OF EVIDENCE: RE-DEFINING APPROACHES TO THE ANATOMICAL VOTIVE

A conference to be held at the British School at Rome, 5th June 2012

Organised by: Dr Jane Draycott (BSR, University of Nottingham), Dr Emma-
Jayne Graham (University of Leicester)

From Pharaonic Egypt to Roman Italy and from Classical Greece to the
Byzantine world, anatomical votives have performed a continuous, if poorly
understood, role in ritual and votive practice. Modern scholarship has
categorised as ‘anatomical’ a range of ex-votos, made largely but not
exclusively from terracotta, which depict parts of the body. These arms,
legs, eyes, fingers, hands, feet, uteri, genitals, internal organs and
other recognisable parts of the internal and external body have attracted
much attention from scholars exploring both past religion and health
alike. Nevertheless, the category of ‘anatomical offering’ remains
noticeably ill-defined and remains to be integrated fully into the study
of ritual, artefacts and the body. This conference will ask how we should
define and interpret the ‘anatomical’ votive. Is a veiled portrait plaque
an anatomical votive? Is a foot or a hand a distinct anatomical votive if
it was constructed in such a way as to allow it to be connected to another
part of the body? Indeed, to what extent can we consider a model of the
whole body an anatomical votive if it was used to request general healing
of a non-specific illness? Whilst feet and ears appear to fall easily into
this class should we perhaps also consider other offerings, such as
statuettes of the entire body and swaddled babies from a similar
perspective? This workshop will bring together scholars working upon the
anatomical offering in its broadest sense from across prehistoric, ancient
and medieval contexts in order to explore and refine our understanding of
this phenomenon. What were anatomical votives for, what did they represent
to those who dedicated, encountered or made them, and what factors
influenced the selection of a particular item? In particular we will be
concerned with what these offerings reveal, not only about past religious
and medical contexts and practices, but also about identity, society,
politics and concepts or constructions of the human body.

We invite papers which address these issues from the standpoint of
archaeology, ancient history, classics and history of medicine, as well as
medieval history and welcome contributions focused upon Italic, Greek,
Near Eastern, Egyptian and other European or Mediterranean contexts.
Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • What is an anatomical votive? Are whole bodies anatomical or only
    fragments? Can they also be a work of art, an ornament, a keepsake or a
    substitute for something else? How might the anatomical be conceived as an
    item with multiple levels of meaning?
  • The fragmentation, reconstitution or realignment of the body: the
    anatomical offering as a proxy for the body or its constituent parts;
    miniaturisation; the intact body as an anatomical votive; (re)creating a
    body from individual pieces; the relationship between concepts of the body
    as expressed by anatomical offerings and the treatment of the component
    parts of the cult statue, other representations of the human or divine
    form, or the living body.
  • Standard forms and individuality: evidence for individualism or artistic
    embellishment and its consequences; the process of commissioning an ex-
    voto and the potential for customisation; the anatomical votive as a work
    of art as well as a religious/medical object; the role of the manufacturer.
  • Change through time and space: developing attitudes, practices and
    medical concerns; can we treat objects recovered from diverse cultural and
    historical contexts as a standard an expression of the same phenomenon?
  • Medicine, pathology and retrospective diagnosis: distinguishing between
    concerns for general health and specific complaints; when did scholars
    begin to use these items to facilitate diagnosis and how has that
    influenced academic discourse on the subject and the definition of this
    category of object?
  • The anatomical offering and the divine: connections with specific
    deities; defining the sanctuary through its votives; when is a healing
    sanctuary a healing sanctuary and not simply a shrine? How do more nuanced
    interpretations of ‘anatomical’ affect these issues?
  • The interpretation of discrete collections of material: deposits that
    contain restricted forms of anatomical offering; the juxtaposition of
    terracotta and metal ex-votos in discrete contexts.
  • Reception of the anatomical votive: the impact of modern academic
    discourse on their classification and interpretation; have scholars been
    too focused on the detail of the traditional anatomical offering at the
    expense of the broader picture? Links with the development of other areas
    of study such as magic, gender, women, medicine; discovery, publication
    and exhibition

Diverse methodologies are encouraged, although proposals should be written
to appeal to a wide range of disciplines.

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS:
Dr Ralph Jackson (British Museum)
Prof. Olivier de Cazanove (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Dr. Jessica Hughes (Open University)

Papers should be of 20 minutes’ length, and should not have been
previously published or delivered at a major conference. Abstracts of
approximately 250 words should be submitted by Monday 13th February.
Successful contributions may be considered for publication in a peer-
reviewed conference volume.

Jane Draycott (j.draycott@bsrome.it)
Emma-Jayne Graham (eg153@leicester.ac.uk)