These fragments look similar. But what people do with them, and what they refer to, vary across times and places. Their different uses point to contrasting understandings of what bodies are and how they work – of how parts relate to a whole.
Representations of human body parts have been found in excavations of ancient sanctuaries and holy places in Europe. They have been identified as votive offerings – made to a deity or saint to seek blessing, to give thanks, or simply to call attention to the devotee.
These ancient objects resemble those used in some contemporary Christian rituals. Because of this, they have been used as evidence that particular concepts and techniques of the body have been continuous in Europe since Antiquity. Yet similarity in form does not always imply identical meaning or use.