Comparative Guts

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A female ‘open torso’ figurine

Nottingham Castle Museum

This female figurine was discovered at the sanctuary of the Graeco-Roman goddess Artemis/Diana Nemorensis at Lake Nemi in Italy in 1885. It was excavated and recovered from a sacred pit where it had been ritually disposed of sometime in antiquity after it had ceased to be required in the temple. It is thought to date from the period of the fourth to the second centuries BCE, and is unique in that the woman is depicted draped in robes yet with an incision in her torso revealing a selection of her internal organs. The combination of the clothing and the posture may indicate that it is intended to represent a living woman, with the dissected torso a thank offering for the healing of an ailment or injury. Alternatively, it may have been intended to recall animal sacrifice, as human sacrifice was an important part of the Sanctuary’s mythical foundation narrative and a form of it was actually practiced there, with the Rex Nemorensis, the priest of the cult, fighting challengers to the death to maintain his position.