Ancient Etruscan Image of Birth


Ancient image of woman giving birth (ca 600 BCE), Etruscan Fragment on vessel, 4cm x 3cm, found in 2011 near Florence, Italy

In 2011, a blind graduate student on his first archaeological dig discovered this precious artifact at an ancient Etruscan settlement near Florence, Italy. The image, which depicts a woman giving birth, dates to 600 BCE and is part of a small fragment from a ceramic vessel.  The fragment measures less than 4cm x 3cm, and shows an Etruscan woman giving birth in the squatting position.  A baby emerges clearly from the woman’s body and she appears to support herself, grasping a rope or tree at her side while birthing the baby.

Similar to representations found on other ancient objects discussed previously here (Ancient EgyptClassical Greek, Medieval IslamicTimna Valley, Willendorf), the Etruscan image is powerful not only in how it represents birth, but even more in that it allows the contemporary viewer a connection to birth of the past.  Looking at ancient artifacts that depict birth remind the pregnant woman that she is connected to a long lineage of other women who have birthed before her, and this idea can be both comforting and empowering to her as she approaches her own labor.