Origins of the Human Heart in Art

Origins of the Human Heart in Art
The earliest representation of the human heart is from ancient Egypt. Also known as the ‘leb’ symbol, the anatomical equivalent of the human heart was in the form of a vase with arm like openings similar to arteries. In ancient Egypt, the human heart was the only organ removed during the mummification process. The first evidence of hieroglyphic writings occurred in 3100 BC.

This is the 'leb symbol which represented the human heart in ancient Egypt.

The next culture to offer an understandable rendering of the human heart was the Olmec art of ancient Mexico. Dating from 1200-600 BC, this Mesoamerican culture is one of the oldest civilizations in the Americas. Said to have practiced human sacrifices, the face on their immense sculptures is a cross between a human and a jaguar.

Known as the "were-jaguar" (think were-wolf), they can be identified as having a downward turned mouth and other common distinctive characteristics such as almond shaped eyes.

This photo depicts a small ceramic figure from Olmec art, dating 1000 B.C. holding a human heart.

During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci (1482-1519) created a drawing of a human heart that is to die for. (Please excuse my pun).

You can own an art print of "Anatomical Drawing of Heart and Blood Vessels by Leonardo da Vinci," available here from

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