4,000-year-old erotica depicts a strikingly racy ancient sexuality

tags: Israel, sexuality, ancient world




Museums are often misconstrued as dusty and lifeless — the least likely place to find something hot and steamy. But the Ancient Near East section in The Israel Museum’s Archaeology Wing features rare erotic art from the land between the rivers (Tigris and Euphrates), which predates India’s Kama Sutra by over 1,500 years. Such astonishingly intimate works reveal a side to the ancient Near East that contrasts sharply with the modesty prevalent in the modern Middle East.

Two clay plaques, small enough to hold in your palm, depict couples copulating in remarkable detail. Dating from the early second millennium BCE, the Old Babylonian period, they come from a 300-year window when mass-produced terra cotta plaques were popular, including those that exhibit sexual acts.

Mesopotamian erotica was “really something racy,” Laura A. Peri, curator of Western Asiatic Antiquities, said when we met in the labyrinthine bowels of the museum. “It’s not all, you know, missionary and that’s it.”...



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