Those Divine Entrails

haruspicy-haruspexTalk about loving guts, the ancient Etruscans hearted organs so much they read animal organs as a fortune teller might read a crystal ball. The practice of studying the guts of sacrificed animals, called haruspicy, was practiced by ancient Babylonians and later Romans (that's a bronzed sheep's liver, pictured, known as the Liver of Piacenza, it is on display at the Municipal Museum of Piacenza). Before humans understood the circulation system, the liver was thought to be the body's most important organ, being as it is the biggest, heaviest and baddest of them all. The haruspex would read the guts -- usually the liver, sometimes the lungs, too --  of the sacrificial animal and tell all about lightning, flooding, bad omens, etc. As you can imagine, it was probably about as accurate as crystal balls.

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