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María Érica Couto-Ferreira, Dr.


María Érica Couto-Ferreira, Dr.


  • Postdoc in project C14 "Medical Systems in Transition: The Case of the Ancient Near East"


Über María Érica Couto-Ferreira

My main research interests regard gynaecology and women's healthcare in cuneiform texts; medical professions and healing practices in antiquity; constitution and transmission of medical knowledge in the Ancient Near East; historiography and new methodological approaches applied to assyriological studies; and lexicography and cultural constructions of the body in Sumerian and Akkadian.

I am currently working in the project "Medical systems in transition: The case of the Ancient Near East" (C14, formerly C1). Focusing my research on the analysis of cuneiform sources, I have produced a continually updated database on published cuneiform texts on healing as well as other content and bibliographic databases and tools that may help researches in the task of studying ancient Mesopotamian medicine. 

I have also produced the monograph entitled A Historical Approach to Healing in Ancient Mesopotamia. Concepts, Sources, Agents (currently under revision). In this book I aim at providing a novel analysis of health and healing practices in ancient Mesopotamia during the 2nd and, most prominently, during the 1st millennium BCE by means of giving a strong historical imprint to the study of cuneiform sources on healthcare. 

During the second funding period, I have focused on the specific case study provided by the topic of women’s healthcare in the Ancient Near East. By way of bringing together history, philology, gender studies, and anthropology, I have delved into the issue of how women’s healthcare was understood and presented accordingly in cuneiform sources. Cuneiform written evidences from the second and first millennium BCE make it clear that women’s healthcare in ancient Mesopotamia was mainly concerned, at least from an intellectual point of view, with fertility and childbirth issues, which were in fact perceived as the realms where womanhood was utterly fulfilled. However, and although this general assumption is still valid on the whole, in the research conducted during this second funding I we have been able, through first-hand handling of the sources, to contest deeply rooted presumptions, namely the one-way identification between women’s healthcare and gynaecology. By doing this, I have brought into the discussion long-neglected aspects such as female desire, sexual appetites, and the weight of sexual difference in the administration of therapies and in health matters in general. In relation to this, I am preparing a study on women's healthcare and cultural constructions of women's bodies in cuneiform sources. I have also co-edited the book Pregnancy and childbirth in pre-modern societies, as well as co-organizing the workshops "Childbirth and Women's Health in Pre-Modern Societies" and "The Matrix of the World: Cultural Constructions of the Uterus".

I am also the manager of the weblog The Healing Treasure, a blog devoted to the history of pre-modern medicine with a focus on the Ancient Near East and the Mediterranean.

Profile at academia.edu: http://heidelberg.academia.edu/MEricaCoutoFerreira

Profile at the Seminar für Sprachen und Kulturen des Vorderen Orients - Assyriologie.



2009 PhD. Etnoanatomía y partonomía del cuerpo humano en sumerio y acadio. El léxico Ugu-mu (Ethno-anatomy and partonomy of the human body in Sumerian and Akkadian. The lexicon Ugu-mu). Advisor: Miquel Civil; tutor: Marina Picazo. Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.

2006 Curso de Aptitud Pedagógica-CAP (Pedagogical Proficiency Course), Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.

Since 2005: Member of the editorial board of Historiae (Barcelona).

2005 MA Assyriological Studies. Universitat de Barcelona.

2005 DEA (Diploma of Advanced Studies). University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. Minor thesis: “Etiología de la enfermedad en Mesopotamia. Las causas sobrenaturales”.

2003 MA History of the Ancient Near East. University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.

2001 MA Ancient History and History of the Middle Ages. Universidade de Santiago de Compostela.

Ausgewählte Publikationen


2009 Etnoanatomía y partonomía del cuerpo humano en sumerio y acadio. El léxico Ugu-mu (PhD). Advisor: Miquel Civil; tutor: Marina Picazo. Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.

(Submitted) A Historical Approach to Healing in Ancient Mesopotamia. Concepts, Sources, Agents.

(In preparation) Women’s Bodies and Healthcare in Ancient Mesopotamia (working title).

Edited books

2014 (With A. Andreeva and S. Töpfer) Pregnancy and Childbirth in Pre-Modern Societies. Dynamis, Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam 34 (2). 

(In preparation)  The Matrix of the World. Cultural Constructions of the Uterus in Pre-modern Societies (working title). Co-edited with Lorenzo Verderame. Under contract with Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Book chapters

2016 "Parteras, nodrizas y cuidadoras en Mesopotamia". In El trabajo de las mujeres en la antigüedad, eds. Ana Delgado e Marina Picazo. Tarragona: Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica; 2016, pp. 103-116.

2016 "No uno, sino muchos males: una reflexión desde los textos rituales asiriobabilónicos". In S. C. Montero Herrero and J. García Cardiel (eds.), Los dioses y el problema del Mal en el Mundo Antiguo. Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla; 2016, pp. 47-66.

2016 "Being Mothers or Acting (like) Mothers? Constructing Motherhood in Ancient Mesopotamia". In S. Budin, J. M. Turfa (eds) Women in Antiquity: Real Women Across the Ancient World. Routledge; 2016, pp. 25-34. 

2015 "Agency, Performance and Recitation as Textual Tradition in Mesopotamia. An Akkadian Text of the Late Babylonian Period to Make a Woman Conceive". In Magali de Haro Sanchez (ed), Écrire la magie dans l’Antiquité – Scrivere la magia nell’antichità. Proceedings of the International Workshop (Liège, October 13-15, 2011). Liège: Presses universitaires de Liège (PULG – Sciences Humaines); 2015, pp. 187-199.

2014 (With Agnes Garcia-Ventura) "Engendering Purity and Impurity in Assyriological Studies: A Historiographical Overview". In Joanna de Groot and Sue Morgan (eds), Sex, Gender and the Sacred: Reconfiguring Religion in Gender History. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell; 2014, pp. 119-134.

2013 "The Circulation of Medical Practitioners in the Ancient Near East. The Mesopotamian Perspective". In Sergio Carro Martín et al. (eds), Mediterráneos: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Cultures of the Mediterranean Sea. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 2013, pp. 401-416.

2013 "The River, the Oven, the Garden: Female Body and Fertility in a Late Babylonian Ritual Text". In Claus Ambos and Lorenzo Verderame (eds),Approaching Rituals in Ancient Cultures. Rivista di Studi Orientali Nuova Serie LXXXVI Supplemento 2. Pisa-Roma: Frabrizio Serra; 2013, pp. 97-116. 

2008 “Gilgameš in Giappone: Riferimenti ai miti sumero-accadici nell’anime”. In Benedetta Belluci et al. (ed), Traduzioni di tradizioni, tradizioni di traduzioni. Atti del quarto incontro «Orientalisti» (Pavia, 19-21 aprile 2007) 19-21 aprile 2007. Milano: Qu.A.S.A.R.; 2008, pp. 39-51.

(In print) "When Women Get Ill. Gendered Constructions of Health and Disease in Cuneiform Texts on Healing". In A. García-Ventura, S. Svärd (eds), Gender, Methodology and Assyriology. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.

(In print)  "‘Let me be your canal’: Some Thoughts on Agricultural Landscape and Female Bodies in Sumero-Akkadian Sources". In L. Feliú, F. Karahashi, G. Rubio, The First 90 Years. Studies in Honor of Miquel Civil on the Occasion of his 90th Birthday. Berlin: De Gruyter.

(Submitted) "From Head to Toe: Listing the Body in Cuneiform Texts". In J. Wee (ed.), The Comparable Body: Imagination and Analogy in Ancient Anatomy and Physiology. Leiden: Brill.

(Submitted) "Ugu-mu e il lessico del corpo". In Lorenzo Verderame (ed), Ordinare il mondo.

(Submitted) "How Rituals Work: Techniques for Preventing Miscarriage in 1st Millennium BCE Mesopotamia". In Joachim Quack and Tanja Pommerening (eds), Wirksamkeit von Heilbehandlungen in den Medizinalsystemen des Alten Orients und Ägyptens

(Submitted) "Nodrizas y lactantes en el Próximo Oriente Antiguo" (with Agnes Garcia-Ventura). In La lactancia en la antigüedad, ed. Susana Reboreda. Besançon: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté.



2014 "She Will Give Birth Easily: Therapeutic Approaches to Childbirth in 1st Millennium B.C.E. Cuneiform Sources". In A. Andreeva, E. Couto-Ferreira, S. Töpfer (eds.), Childbirth and Women's Healthcare across Cultures. Dynamis 34/2, pp. 289-315.

2013 With Agnes Garcia-Ventura. "Engendering Purity and Impurity in Assyriological Studies. A Historiographical Overview". Gender & History, 25/3. Pp. 513-528.

2010. "It Is the Same for a Man and a Woman: Melancholy and Lovesickness in Ancient Mesopotamia". Quaderni di Studi Indo-Mediterranei, 3. Pp. 21-39.

2010 "Etnoanatomía y partonomía del cuerpo humano en sumerio y acadio". Una introducción al léxico Ugu-mu. Butlletí IUHJVV, 10. Pp. 14-16.

2008 “Si una mujer tiene la cabeza grande: Fisionomía y carácter femenino en un texto asiriobabilónico”. Asclepio, 60(1). Pp. 19-36.

2007 “Conceptos de transmisión de la enfermedad en Mesopotamia: algunas reflexiones”. Historiae, 4. Pp. 1-23.

2005 “Los espectros furiosos como causa de enfermedad en Mesopotamia”. Historiae, 2. Pp. 27-54.

(In print) "In the Womb: Embryological Ideas in Mesopotamian Cuneiform Texts". Korot, special issue on The Embryo.

(Submitted) "Nell’oscurità: il feto tra nascita e morte nei testi cuneiformi". Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni.


2012. Review of Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson (eds.) (2011), The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.07.33.

2011. Review of A.M.G. Capomacchia (ed.) (2009), Animali tra mito e simbolo. Rivista di Studi Orientali, 83 (2010). Pp. 455-460.

2010. "Fuentes lapidarias cuneiformes. Recensión a A. Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel". Historiae, 7. Pp. 97-105.

2007 “La salud de la materia. Últimas publicaciones en historia de la medicina del Próximo Oriente antiguo”. Historiae, 4. Pp. 133-143.

2006 Review of Rochberg, F. (2004): The Heavenly Writing. Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Historiae, 3. Pp. 132-133.

2006 Review of Scurlock, J. A. and B. R. Andersen (2005), Diagnoses in Assyrian and Babylonian Medicine. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Historiae, 3. Pp. 134-139.

Blog posts

Let your penis consume my crotch: Thoughts on female sexual desire in Ancient Mesopotamia (21/11/2015). In www.genderstudies.science.