Two Egyptian men hugging... hmm.
When Egyptologists entered the tomb for the first time more than four decades ago, they expected to be surprised. Explorers of newly exposed tombs always expect that, and this time they were not disappointed - they were confounded.
It was back in 1964, outside Cairo, near the famous Step Pyramid in the necropolis of Saqqara and a short drive from the Sphinx and the breathtaking pyramids at Giza. The newfound tomb yielded no royal mummies or dazzling jewels. 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. Their names were inscribed above: Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. Though not of the nobility, they were highly esteemed in the palace as the chief manicurists of the king, sometime from 2380 to 2320 B.C., in the time known as the fifth dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Grooming the king was an honored occupation.
It's really worth registering to get the rest of the article.
Anyway, they go on to say that the biggest theory is that they're twins. Another theory, which has gained popularity more recently, is that they're a homosexual couple. The latest theory is that they're Siamese twins.
As far as I'm concerned, any of these theories are possible, but what gets me is that they keep insisting that the twin theory (not Siamese) is the "simplest explanation." Why?! They keep saying these two are depicted the way a husband and a wife would be. Just because we think homosexuality is a "modern" notion (and it is NOT!), can we ignore the fact that these men are depicted in the same manner as a husband and wife?! At any rate, if there was even a chance that homosexuality wasn't so frowned upon that some Egyptian might make homosexual art, then even an Egyptian might have to wonder about the intimacy of the two men.
It would be a convoluted explanation if there weren't parallels between depictions of married men and women, but there are. I'm not saying I know enough about Egyptian culture, but even that article says they don't know much about twins or homosexuality in ancient Egypt to know for sure. I just think that by dismissing the possibility as not "simple," they're the ones actually imposing our cultural biases on the subject.
I mean, we already have proof of homosexuality in an ancient culture, so it's not just us.
On the flip side, the parallel look of the two men reminds me more of twins. However, as they say in the article, Egpytian art was far more symbolic than actual. Thus, I wouldn't be surprised if a homosexual couple were depicted in such a parallel fashion.
You could also argue that since brothers and sisters often had a marital relationship as well, depicting them in a husband/wife pose might really just be the same as a brother/sister pose.
Frankly, I don't know enough about the subject either way, but they haven't offered any good reasons in that article why it's not just as "simple" to assume they're a homosexual couple. The only context in which it's not "simple" is our own culture's bias.
They did have a really good argument for the twin theory too, though, so I do think that's just as plausible. But I'd like some equal credit where equal credit is due.
If somebody knows more about this than I do, feel free to tell me otherwise. I'm certainly curious now!
Edited to add: Ok, it occurs to me that I've been using "homosexual couple" when I should've been using "same sex relationship" or some such. Homosexuality (and heterosexuality, for that matter) is a modern concept. Same sex relationships are not. But we confuse them too easily, and I know it's become acceptable to throw on "homosexuality" as a quick label in academia. Perhaps that's where we're going wrong. Scholars have been careful to differentiate between ancient "homosexuality" and modern "homosexuality," but the term can still be misleading.