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Mandrake root, England, 1501-1700

Anthropomorphic objects are those whose shape resembles that of a human. They have often been attributed with special powers or healing properties. Mandrake roots have long been associated with pagan beliefs and magic rituals. They have also had a range of medical applications. Such was the perceived resemblance to the human form that mandrake roots were said to scream when pulled from the ground. Medically, they were believed to improve fertility although in ancient Greece, wine infused with mandrake root was used to numb patients before surgery.

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Glossary: fertility

The natural capacity to give birth.

Glossary: mandrake root

The root of any plant in the Mandragora family. The resemblance of the root to a human led to a superstition that when pulled from the ground, the root would produce a shriek that would kill anyone who heard it.