Being a specific form of the general practice of extispicy, haruspicy is not original to Etruscans nor Romans. Rather, it is now considered to have originated from the Near East where one finds Hittites and Babylonians performing similar rites with entrails and producing comparable stylized models of the sheep's liver.
The Niniveh library texts name more than a dozen liver-related terms and before cuneiform writing was even deciphered, hints of the existence of Babylonian hepatoscopy were recorded in the Bible. One Babylonian clay model of a sheep's liver was found dated between 2050 and 1750 BC. The model was used for omen divination which was important to Mesopotamian medicine. This study was carried out by priests and seers who looked for signs in the stars, or in the organs of sacrificed animals, to tell them things about a patient’s illness. Wooden pegs were placed in the holes of the clay tablet to record features found in a sacrificed animal’s liver. The priest or seer then used these features to predict the course of a patient’s illness.
Haruspicy was part of a larger study of organs for the sake of divination, paying attention to the positioning of the organs. There are many records of different peoples using the liver and spleen of various domestic and wild animals to forecast weather. There are hundreds of ancient architectural objects, labyrinths composed of cobblestones in the northern countries that are considered to be a model of the intestines of the sacrificial animal, i.e. the colon of ruminants. The study of intestines was called "extispicy".
Etruscan haruspicy probably reached Etruria via the Hittites, perhaps because the Etruscans originated in Asia Minor. The art of haruspicy was taught in the Libri Tagetici, a collection of texts attributed to Tages, a childlike being who figures in Etruscan mythology, and who was discovered in an open field by Tarchon.
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