Alternative sexuality in ancient Egypt? Follow the LGBT Trail at the Petrie Museum

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.

Video – Love and Romance in the Ancient World

A History of Love

Roman Graffiti – From Pompeii with Love

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

    £20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

    Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

    £16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

    Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - School Playground Designer

    £25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: Traffic Planner

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the successful candidate you...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor