Many have been intrigued by the lore surrounding Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, who served Fifth Dynasty pharaoh King Niuserre as manicurists and “royal confidants,” in keeping with hieroglyphics on their tomb. Inbuilt 2400 BCE of their honor, the tomb is without doubt one of the largest and most intricately embellished within the Saqqara necropolis, and the unbelievable preservation of its contents has additionally established an argument that these two, interred collectively in an embrace, are the oldest documented homosexual couple in historical past (although they each nonetheless declare to show 35 yearly).
Amongst these captivated by their story is Angel Mason, a Michigan-based illustrator who portrayed the couple in his digital art work “Joined in Life” (2021), a part of a collection devoted to the occluded histories of queer folks of coloration.
“Niankhumn and Khnumhotep had been two male lovers who had been buried collectively in a joint tomb in Saqqara, Egypt,” Mason instructed Hyperallergic. “Their epigraph reads ‘Joined in life, joined in dying.’ I created this piece to seize the love and intimacy the 2 shared, and present that Black, queer love is as outdated as time itself.”
Found by Egyptologists in 1964, murals on the tomb depict the 2 males in a pose historically reserved for husband and spouse. One panel options an embrace with noses touching — a pose of marital intimacy inside the lexicon of Egyptian artwork. Homosexuality was not unusual in Historical Egypt, and clearly their relationship was each accredited of by the pharaoh and shut sufficient to name for co-burial — although the precise nature of their partnership is debated by historians, who make varied instances based mostly on the imagery within the tomb.
A 2016 article by Linda Evans and Alexandra Woods presents the case that the 2 males had been maybe twins, based mostly on current re-examinations of the tomb’s ornamental motifs, which have “revealed a major variety of paired photos during which scenes or components of a motif ‘mirror’ each other.” They don’t seem to be the primary to argue that the couple had been siblings moderately than romantic companions, citing different panels within the tombs that point out the lads had wives and kids — although it goes with out saying that marital or familial standing isn’t unique to gay relationships, socially sanctioned or in any other case.
Different researchers deem it probably that the pair had been romantically related, invoking many panels that characteristic them subsequent to one another, holding arms, sitting collectively, standing nose-to-nose, or embracing in a method that was most frequently used to depict a married couple. In these tableaux, Khnumhotep is usually positioned within the spot sometimes reserved for the spouse, typically accompanied by symbols historically related to ladies, such because the “knot of Isis” or Tyet. There may be gender-ambiguous terminology used to explain each males, and an implication of intimacy of their names, which had been assigned nicknames moderately than beginning names: Each consult with Khnum, the Egyptian god of fertility.
Regardless of these indicators, the tomb continues to be also known as “The Tomb of Two Brothers,” with historians going so far as to counsel that they weren’t solely twins, however bodily conjoined, in order to clarify their fixed closeness and their enigmatic epigraph. However some attribute this conclusion to a pervasive bias towards LGBTQ+ people that manifests even in educational analysis. As Making Queer Historical past factors out: “If a person and girl shared the tomb, the conclusion of a romantic relationship would have been reached instantly. Nobody would have prompt fraternal conjoined twins, loving siblings, or pleasant colleagues.”
Recognizing the loving and normalized existence of queer relationships all through human existence is all of the extra cause to have a good time discoveries like this with pleasure.