But the explorers stopped in their tracks when the light of their kerosene lamp shined on the wall art in the most sacred chamber.
There, carved in stone, were the images of two men embracing.
Archaeologists were taken aback. It was extremely rare in ancient Egypt for an elite tomb to be shared by two men of apparently equal standing.
And it was most unusual for a couple of the same sex to be depicted locked in an embrace. In other scenes, they are also shown holding hands and nose-kissing, the favored form of kissing in ancient Egypt. What were scholars to make of their intimate relationship? Link
Over the years, the tomb's wall art has been subjected to learned analysis, inspiring considerable speculation. One interpretation is that the two men are brothers, probably identical twins, and this may be the earliest known depiction of twins. Another is that the men had a homosexual relationship, a more recent view that has gained support among gay advocates.
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."
Well, maybe. But there aren’t a lot of male twins buried together either, are there? I mean, we’ve already heard it’s unusual for men to be buried together at all. Plus, we learn later in the article that
"We don't have a lot of information about how twins were viewed in ancient Egypt or how gay life was perceived," Dr. Allen said.
So why is the gay couple hypothesis unlikely?
This reminds me of the controversy surrounding the Boswell theory about same-sex marriages in premodern Europe, recently supported again by Alan Bray in The Friend. Initial reaction was strongly negative (at least as characterized in this review), but additional research seems to support the theory that, as the review puts it:
For a very long period, formal amatory unions, conjugal, elective and indissoluble, between two members of the same sex were made in Europe, publicly recognised and consecrated in churches through Christian ritual.
Look, I don’t much care if these Egyptians were gay, twins, conjoined twins, or just one schizophrenic guy. But it sure doesn’t seem like “gay advocates” are the ones slanting their historical assessments based on today’s prejudices.
Tags: brokeback mountain , gay , Egypt , gay marriage, history