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Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep
December 21, 2005 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Locked in a Timeless Embrace: A third possibility. First documented gay couple (manicurists to the King) or just a case of conjoined twins? Same-sex closeness in historical Egypt.
posted by Jikido (21 comments total)

 
NY Times article. Bugmenot?
posted by Jikido at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2005


Perhaps just as interesting as the scenarios explaining the two dudes in the tomb, the NYT cites Google searches as a quasi-credible source of information.

The most Google references to the tomb, archaeologists say, concern the homosexual idea.

Twenty bajillion google searches can't be wrong! Archaeologists agree!

[Also: This is awesome.]
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:15 AM on December 21, 2005


Um yeah, we all know any time in history men showed affection for eachother, they were gay.
posted by delmoi at 8:19 AM on December 21, 2005


Egyptian art is extremely rigid, delmoi. There is a very strict iconography. This is the "couple" motif. If it were male and female, there would be no discussion--man and wife, period. The only reason people are equivocating is because it's gay. Seems pretty straightforward to me.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2005


From the article: "James Allen, an Egyptologist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who is not involved in the research, called the twins hypothesis probable and the conjoined-twins idea "an interesting wrinkle." The least likely, he said, was the homosexual-relationship proposal.

Dr. Baines said, "The gay-couple idea is essentially derived from imposing modern preoccupations on ancient materials and not attending to the cultural context."
"

Although I certainly support scholarship that uncovers what might be called the secret history of homosexuality or even just the history of sexuality in general, there has to be great care in ascribing a homosexual component to every story of two men sharing a bed.

On the other hand, it probably helps the "gay-couple idea" that the two men in question were the Pharaoh's chief manicurists.
posted by illovich at 8:28 AM on December 21, 2005


Same article, non-NYT.
posted by Plutor at 8:30 AM on December 21, 2005


Dr. Baines said, "The gay-couple idea is essentially derived from imposing modern preoccupations on ancient materials and not attending to the cultural context."

This begs the question. I wonder which is a more "modern preoccupation", homosexuality or its presumption as an abnormality.
posted by felix betachat at 8:45 AM on December 21, 2005


I love how hard scholars look for non-gay explanations. We have very little clue how family life of any sort worked in 2300BC Egypt. Much less a "transgressive" family life whose evidence might have been destroyed by anti-gay historians in the intervening years. The Christan Church burned a lot of troublesome documents.

Even the very first written text we have, the Epic of Gilgamesh, has a relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu that can be seen as erotic. Then again they go whoring a lot, too. Who's to say? Sexuality is complicated.
posted by Nelson at 9:27 AM on December 21, 2005


What Nelson said. Sexuality is complicated...especially when "the act of two men engaging in consentual sex and/or love toward each other" is deemed as something that many in this country would prefer not to have to think about.

Being gay is not abnormal. It would be nice to have all of the facts of our history realized scientifically and documented.

But then we all know where science will get us.
posted by Jikido at 9:51 AM on December 21, 2005


When O'Connor looked into the matter, he was struck by a comparison of the images of the two men with pictures of Chang and Eng, the famous conjoined twins born in 1811 in Siam. They were seen close together, arm in arm. They and a number of documented conjoined twins also had wives and children — like the two Egyptians

Then again they go whoring a lot, too. Who's to say? Sexuality is complicated.

Can be. Given the children these guys were either straight or bisexual, assuming they weren't father by others.
posted by scheptech at 9:56 AM on December 21, 2005




see Adelphopoiesis
posted by Jikido at 10:30 AM on December 21, 2005


It probably helps the "gay-couple idea" that the two men in question were the Pharaoh's chief manicurists.

Does it really?

I agree that it helps make the case for a lot of people, including me. But can you cite behavioural stereotypes like that in academic research papers? Is there research you can appropriately cite that documents the fact that gay men are fussy in that way across time and across cultures?
posted by alms at 10:42 AM on December 21, 2005


Conjoined twins. Yeah right.

Working in the 'grooming' business. Sure folks.

Fool me once shame on me. Fool me...can't be fooled again.
posted by HTuttle at 11:27 AM on December 21, 2005


(LOL. Looks like I fooled myself on that Bush misquote.)
posted by HTuttle at 11:28 AM on December 21, 2005


The conjoined twins idea seems manifestly weak, as there are other depictions of the two men in the tomb showing affection but which do not show them in close proximity contact (as from a conjoining). One shows them walking hand-in-hand, with clearly no conjoining of their bodies. Another shows them seated next to each other, again with clearly space between their bodies. A third shows them at the banquet, depicted on separate sides of the tableau. A fourth shows them again in an embrace, but with obvious space between them.

felix betachat's comment seems to hit the nail on the head: "I wonder which is a more "modern preoccupation", homosexuality or its presumption as an abnormality." Folks who are disinclined to accept homosexuality as a possibility are surely not innocent of bringing their own biases to their interpretation of these depictions.

Two men shown embracing in multiple scenes, holding hands, sharing a tomb, with their names depicted integrated, in a pose that is otherwise reserved for married couples. Well, lots of ways to interpret that, sure, but one of them seems to be pretty straightforward.

You know, when Lincoln is reported as having shared a bed with another guy, that's pretty easy to explain as just a case of having fewer beds than there were men. But if we saw a daguerrotype of Lincoln in a wedding dress and holding a corsage in front of a church, standing next to a man in a suit, holding hands and gazing into each others' eyes, it might take a little more explaining...
posted by darkstar at 12:36 PM on December 21, 2005


embalming-fluid filter: "You're soaking in it!"
posted by rob511 at 6:01 PM on December 21, 2005


Nelson .... the insinuation that Christians may have destroyed evidence of ancient homosexuality due to religious belief doesn't hold much water. The modern preoccupation with homosexuality is a very recent thing in Christianity. In the last generation, it was rock music. This generation has "the gay." Next generation, it'll be something else. American evangelicalism has been one of the most disturbing Christian movements of the past 2,000 years, largely because it combines a total lack of theological substance with a resulting merry-go-round of "core issues" that change every decade or so, combined with a conviction that it has always been this way.
posted by jefgodesky at 6:56 PM on December 21, 2005


I agree that it helps make the case for a lot of people, including me. But can you cite behavioural stereotypes like that in academic research papers? Is there research you can appropriately cite that documents the fact that gay men are fussy in that way across time and across cultures?

Sorry, I guess I forgot my winking emoticon to signify clearly that I was taking the piss.
posted by illovich at 5:55 AM on December 22, 2005


Iconoclasm: Literally, iconoclasm is the destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually for religious or political motives.

just sayin'
posted by Jikido at 6:49 AM on December 22, 2005


On a related point, speaking of iconoclasm and Ancient Egypt, it was not actually Napoleon's troops that shot the nose of of the Sphinx as is often recounted. Rather, it was most likely a fanatic Turk in the 1378 who viewed it as a prohibited statue of a pagan god and so wished to destroy it.

See more here.
posted by darkstar at 10:47 AM on December 22, 2005


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