Skip links

What will the Future bring: Liver models

About the exhibition

In the ancient Near East people believed strongly in divination, the art of interpreting various signs in nature. They were convinced that it was possible to determine the wishes of their gods and act accordingly to lead a peaceful life. For them the gods’ will manifested itself in many different ways: For instance the movement of clouds in the sky or the flight of birds, the manner flour reacted with water or the shape of smoke. Thus they were enabled to act according to the divine will in finding good and lucky moments for their plans - this ranged from the military expeditions of the kings to the purchase of a new slave for a private household. At the same time diseases, accidents, bad harvests, storms or other plagues could be avoided.

One of the most popular methods of divination in antiquity was the liver divination, a thorough examination of a sheep liver. Priests were trained to check at least three different parts of the liver, which were all assigned to certain indications. If only one of them produced a negative result, the sacrifice and the divination had to be repeated.

Large liver models with inscriptions in cuneiform script were used as training material, and ancient temple and palace libraries held collections of famous oracles.

With their distinctive features and different looks, the two livers here certainly commemorate individual omens conducted by priests. Perhaps they were additionally kept as amulets to protect the house, its inhabitants, livestock and possessions.

No. 95 Liver model. Provenance unknown, baked clay. L: 6 cm; H: 3,3 cm; Th: 0,8 cm

No. 174 Liver model. Provenance unknown, baked clay. L: 9 cm; L (cut): 3,4 cm; Th: 0,8 cm