Pastry Divination Models 2016 - ongoing

Pastry Divination Models 2016 - ongoing


Shortbread biscuit, and gingerbread dough, and rough, puff and hot water crust pastry pie tops with various fillings.

Dimensions various.



A form of visual research, some of the biscuits were formed in the Louvre galleries whilst observing the liver models on display from the palace of Mari (19th-18th century BC), and the 11th century BC Mesopotamian clay tablet representing the bowels of a sheep.


The small pie lids have representations of what is thought to be extispicy models from a clay tablet from Babylon, from the 12th-11th century BC, seen in the Vorderasiatische Museum, Berlin (part of the Pergamon).


One of the larger pie lid has the Louvre extispicy design, and the other refers to the 18th-16th century BC Mesopotamian divination model, housed in the British Museum, which portrays the demon Huwawa’s face as coiled intestines. The inscription on the reverse of the object reveals an omen that if entrails were encountered that look like this model, it would mean 'revolution'.


There are a few examples in extispicy reports of the “baking” of the results of a divination, perhaps as a way of preserving the models. For example, in a letter to the king of Mari the diviner Erib-Sin wrote, “I baked […] those extispicies and sealed them in a box and sent (it) to my lord”. [In Wolfgang Heimpel, Letters to the King of Mari. Mesopotamian Civilizations Vol. 12. (Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, Indiana, 2003), p. 213-14, cited in Matthew T. Rutz, ‘The Archaeology of Mesopotamian Extispicy: Modeling Divination in the Old Babylonian Period’, in Matthew T. Rutz and Morag M. Kersel, eds, Archaeologies of Text: Archaeology, Technology, and Ethics (Oxford and Philadelphia: Oxbow, 2014), 97-120, p. 102]


There is also one biscuit in the shape of the liver tablet from Sippar, 1900 - 1600 BC, clay, 14.6 × 14.6 cm, BM92668, from the British Museum. According to the curator's notes attached to the artefact, the object was only baked in 1970 by C. A. Bateman, suggesting that when it was discovered in the dig in Sippar in 1889, it was not fired and was only left to harden in the sun, as with many ancient tablets. (


A batch of gingerbread also recalls the terracotta clay of the tablet with multiple intestinal drawings from Babylon in the Vorderasiatische Museum, and the extispicy tablet in the Louvre.

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