Comparative Guts

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A polyvisceral plaque

Museo Nazionale Etrusco Di Villa Giulia

This Etruscan polyvisceral plaque from Tessennano in Latium in Italy is thought to date from around 400 BCE. Anatomical votives like these were deposited in sanctuaries and temples as offerings to the gods, generally interpreted as a gesture of gratitude for some manner of divine intervention such as the healing of an ailment or injury. This is one of only two examples to depict the trachea in the form of a snake in addition to the more standard depiction of internal organs such as the stomach and the intestines, although these are impressionistic rather than anatomically correct. This representation is not fully understood, but it may be a reference to Asklepios/Aesculapius, the Graeco-Roman god of healing and medicine, who was particularly associated with snakes, or a belief that there were snakes lurking inside the human body, or even an understanding of animal/human hybridity.