Ancient birth brick emerges in Egypt

Excavators of a 3,700-year-old Egyptian town have delivered a surprising find–a painted brick that was one of a pair once used to support a woman’s feet while she squatted during childbirth. Until now known only from ancient Egyptian writing, so-called birth bricks were used in childbirth rituals that called on gods to secure the health of newborns.

The newly discovered mud birth brick was identified by the scene on it depicting a mother with her newborn baby, attended by several women and Hathor, a cow goddess associated with birth and motherhood.

Archaeologist Josef Wegner of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the dig director, suspects that a princess named Renseneb used the brick. It turned up in a residential wing for females in a mayor’s mansion (SN: 8/28/99, p. 139). Inscribed clay-seal impressions found near the brick refer to Renseneb, who may have married one of the town’s powerful mayors, Wegner says.

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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