Blind Researcher Discovers Earliest Western Images of Childbirth
Researchers made a startling discovery on a recent dig at Poggio Colla, a 2,700-year-old Etruscan settlement: images of women giving birth.
They were found on a broken shard from a ceramic vessel. As seen here — photo via Phil Perkins — the images show the baby emerging from its mother. The mother is crouched or laying down with her knees raised, one arm up and sporting a long ponytail. Way too cool of an image.
The excavation is run by Southern Methodist University, Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology:
The identification of the scene was made by Dr. Phil Perkins, an authority on Etruscan bucchero and professor of archaeology at The Open University. “We were astounded to see this intimate scene; it must be the earliest representation of childbirth in western art,” said Dr. Perkins. “Etruscan women are usually represented feasting or participating in rituals, or they are goddesses. Now we have to solve the mystery of who she is and who her child is.”
“The birth scene is extraordinary, but what is also fascinating is what this image might mean on elite pottery at a sanctuary,” said Dr. Greg Warden, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU and a director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project. “Might it have some connection to the cult, to the kind of worship that went on at the hilltop sanctuary of Poggio Colla?”
Another cool aspect is that the fragment itself was discovered by a graduate student in anthropology who is legally blind.
As for the question about whether it’s connected to worship, the deal is that scholars are almost certain that the spot was considered sacred to a divinity of the region, most likely female. This discovery would bolster that claim.
A paper about the find will be presented in January at a meeting of archaeological scholars.