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Votive figure showing a woman breast feeding a child, Italy, 350-50 BCE

Votive offerings are symbolic body parts presented to a god, either in the hope of a cure or as thanks for one. This figure shows a mother breastfeeding her child. The offering may have been given in thanks by a mother for her child, possibly due to infertility or as thanks for the safe delivery of a child – pregnancy and childbirth were risky and had high death rates. This figure shows some Greek influence in design but is probably from Southern Italy.

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Glossary: breast feeding

The process of synthesising milk from the breasts, usually a child from its mother.

Glossary: votive offering

Objects or monuments donated by an individual for a public place or shrine. The object is usually given in gratitude for deliverance from distress.