Eroticism and sexuality in Old Kingdom Egypt

Eroticism and sexuality in Old Kingdom Egypt

A. DE TRAFFORD and G. J. TASSIE (Institute of Archaeology, University College London)

Erotica, Eroticism and Sexuality in Ancient Egypt: Proceedings of the International Congress for Young Egyptologists, Lisbon, Oct. (2006)


The particular focus of this paper is the Old Kingdom though it also attempts to trace the development of what may be considered erotic and sexual notions in the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Period, and to foreshadow the evolution of these concepts into the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom. An examination is made of ancient Egyptian notions of eroticism and sexuality within the context of broader concepts of the body and of gender, in art, religious beliefs, funerary practices and everyday life in the Old Kingdom.

Sexuality and eroticism as we understand them today are thoroughly modern concepts, appropriate to our post-agrarian, industrialised world. As in every era, notions of the body, sexuality and gender are linked to a variety of interrelated cultural norms constructed through religious beliefs, traditions, politics, social relationships and scientific discoveries. Thus, in ancient Egypt, just as in modern day society, constructions of sexuality are highly cultural, despite their biological foundation in the body. Sexuality in Egypt was very varied, and served many social, religious and ritual functions, many of them being embedded in other activities of daily life, not easily delineated. In this article we focus mainly on the role of sexuality in ideology of kingship and in the mortuary sphere, reflecting the bias in the archaeological evidence. We also discuss the relations

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