ARCE Lecture: Dirty Pictures for a Dangerous Goddess

The Turin Erotic Papyrus

Ann Macy Roth

New York University

Note: We are now fully booked for this event and are only accepting names for the wait-list.

Papyrus 55001 in Turin's Museo Egizio, often called the "Turin Erotic Papyrus" has long been a subject of intense Egyptological interest despite its rather fragmentary state. Almost certainly the product of the community of royal artists at the village of Deir el-Medina on the west bank at Thebes, it dates to the later New Kingdom period, probably to the reign of Ramesses III (roughly 1184-1153 BCE). Two thirds of its length shows a sequence of twelve couples in sexual poses while the remaining third depicts a wide variety of animals engaged in role-reversed or anthropomorphic activities. Diverse interpretations of the meaning and social function of the papyrus have been proposed, ranging from cosmological to pornographic to cautionary, although most scholars seem to agree that it was intended for male edification and titillation. This X-rated talk will propose a new interpretation of the social function of the papyrus and suggest a rather different audience, pointing to a reinterpretation of ancient Egyptian erotica more generally.

Ann Macy Roth studied Egyptology at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute and received her doctoral degree with a dissertation on a system of labor organization widely used in the royal palaces, temples, and work gangs in the Old Kingdom period. She has taught Egyptology at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Howard University, and since 2003 she has taught in the departments of Art History and of Hebrew & Judaic Studies at New York University. She has directed six seasons of archaeological and epigraphic fieldwork at the Old Kingdom cemeteries of Giza; her other research focuses on questions of Old Kingdom tomb chapel decoration and the representation of gender in ancient Egyptian art and literature of all periods. Her study of Turin 55001 is part of her work in this last area.

Note: this lecture will include adult themes and is not suitable for children.

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Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.  

Reception to follow. 

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