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Tawny L. Holm
Penn State (University Park, PA 16802-1503)
Religious Discourse on Women and Abnormal Births in Ancient Mesopotamia and Babylon

This project is a study and comparison of two ancient Near Eastern textual corpora that deal with abnormal or teratogenic births and malformed fetuses: the Mesopotamian omen series known as Ĺ umma izbu ("If an abnormal fetus...") from the first millennium BCE, and the Babylonian Talmud (especially Tractate Niddah) of the third to fifth centuries CE. As a product of diaspora Jews in Babylon, the Talmud preserves certain aspects of ancient Babylon's intellectual and scientific heritage. This study will thus illuminate the origins of early Jewish gynecology, analyze ancient Mediterranean scholarly constructs of women's bodies, and reassess the epistemological nature of the scientific method framing both Mesopotamian omen literature and rabbinical medicine.

Project fields:
Near and Middle Eastern Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$5,000 (approved)
$5,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2004 – 8/31/2004