Limestone statuette of a childbirth scene

Period: Hellenistic

Date: ca. 310–30 B.C.

Culture: Cypriot

Medium: Limestone

Dimensions: H. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm) ; W. 9 7/8 in. (25.1 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76

Accession Number: 74.51.2698


This small limestone sculpture depicts a woman in childbirth. A standing attendant, whose head is missing, supports the mother from behind. At the foot of the couch, a seated attendant holds the newborn child. In classical antiquity, childbirth was generally the concern of midwives, as male doctors were called in only for difficult cases. Several of Hippocrates' treatises discuss childbirth, beginning with the onset of labor as it relates to the movement of the fetus. The most detailed account of labor and delivery is in the first-century A.D. handbook entitled Gynaecology, which was written by the Ephesian physician Soranus (ca. A.D.98–138) for midwives. Soranus envisioned delivery on a birthing chair; he describes the dilation of the cervix and the breathing technique to be used in the delivery. He also emphasizes that the midwife and assistants, as depicted in this limestone sculpture from Golgoi, must reassure the mother.