Alternative sexuality in ancient Egypt? Follow the LGBT Trail at the Petrie Museum
Monday 22 February 2010
Learning about 'alternative' sexualities through time is often a murky business, beset with the prejudices and right-leaning morals of almost every culture in history. And when you're looking as far back as ancient Egypt, the task becomes infinitely harder. This makes the Petrie Museum's latest endeavour all the more impressive, as it falls in line with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Month, a UK-wide event running throughout February.
Like lesbian or gay history in general, you'll have to do more than scratch at the museum's surface to get a sniff of alternative sexualities in Egypt. 'Beyond Isis and Osiris: Alternative Sexualities in Ancient Egypt' is a recondite retrospective of gay and lesbian life, shown via 14 artefacts. Organiser John J. Johnson is hardly surprised at the lack of conspicuous gay iconography millennia ago: "That there is an 'official' somewhat censorious attitude towards homosexual acts in Pharaonic Egyptian culture is difficult to deny...The twenty-seventh declaration of the Book of the Dead is a confirmation by the deceased that he did not have homosexual relations."
Yet Mr Johnson argues that this suppression proves homosexual activity occured in ancient Egypt - and there is no lack of museum evidence to back his claim. A stela of Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti shows the heretic king in a wholly effeminate light, suggesting some sort of hermaphroditic aspect to his heretic worship of Aten, the sun-disk. The Tale of Horus and Seth, a papyrus fragment, describes how the two gods "lay down together. At night, Seth let his member become stiff and he inserted it between the thighs of Horus..."
The Classical Period is also explored in the trail, including the alleged romance of Alexander the Great and Hephaestion. Emperor Hadrian, one of Rome's greatest leaders, was supposedly embroiled in a love affair with a young man called Antinous: a bronze coin of the former and marble statue of the latter prove handy insights into the tale.
The trail is part of a wider series of events and lectures run by University College London this month, which has already featured Andrew Lear's fascinating views on Greek pederasty. And Mr Johnson claims the Petrie Museum is the perfect venue for such a trail, as "Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie was particularly keen, in his excavation of settlement areas, to reveal the truth of the ancient Egyptians' day-to-day lives rather than uncovering the art treasures and funerary artefacts sought by his contemporaries." Catch the LGBT Trail throughout February.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...