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03/08/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

ARCE Lecture: Dirty Pictures for a Dangerous Goddess

The Turin Erotic Papyrus

Ann Macy Roth

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.
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