The Turin Papyrus
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The Turin Erotic Papyrus

 

 

1186
BC

The papyrus dates from the XX Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, which lasted from 1186-1069 BC. It was discovered in the early 19th century.

It was probably created by a painter from Deir El-Medina village. When French scholar (and translator of the Rosetta Stone) Jean-François Champollion viewed the papyrus in Torino in 1824, he described it in his notes as: “an image of monstrous obscenity that gave me a really strange impression about Egyptian wisdom and composure.”

The Turin Erotic Papyrus is a famous (or rather, infamous) 12th/11th century BC Egyptian papyrus, divided into two parts, giving a unique insight into attitudes toward comedy and sex in ancient Egypt. It was discovered in Deir El-Medina in the early 19th century, and has been described as the "world's first men's mag."

The first section is satirical - it humourosly shows humanized animals performing tasks such as playing musical instruments, climbing trees to pick fruit, quarelling and driving chariots. The second section is erotic - it explicitly shows a bearded man engaging in various different acrobatic sex acts with a female courtesan.

The papyrus is said to represent attitudes towards sex in Egypt that were very relaxed and erotic, yet also discreet and kept behind closed doors. The papyrus was "completed" (since framgments are missing) digitally by Wild Dream Films in 2009, as part of a documentary for the History Channel titled Sex In The Ancient World - Egyptian Erotica. It is on display today in the Museo Egizio in Turin.

Erotic section

Containing twelve successive scenes, the erotic section takes up two-thirds of the Turin Papyrus.[1]

Not conforming the convention of bodily perfection in ancient Egyptian art, the men depicted on the papyrus are "scruffy, balding, short, and paunchy" with exaggeratedly large genitalia.[5] In contrast, the women are nubile and appear with canonical erotic images of convolvulus leaves, Hathoric imagery, lotus flowers, monkeys and sistra.[5] Overall, the artistic merit of the images is high, suggesting that the Erotic Papyrus had an elite owner and audience.[1]

The various male images have also been interpreted as a single protagonist, who has several encounters with a courtesan.[4]

 Uniqueness

The severely damaged Erotic Papyrus is the only known erotic scroll-painting to have survived.[1]

Modern audiences often misconceive that ancient Egyptian art is devoid of sexual themes.[1] After Jean-François Champollion saw the papyrus in 1824 at Torino, he described it as "an image of monstrous obscenity that gave me a really strange impression about Egyptian wisdom and composure."[4][6]

Purpose

The real significance of the images is yet unknown since those fragments of text that have survived reasonably intact have so far not yielded any clear purpose for the Erotic Papyrus.[2] The text appears to have been hastily written in the margins and would seem to express enjoyment and delight

 

 

 

 
 
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Last modified: 11/17/10