Turin Erotic Papyrus

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Fragments of the papyrus on display at the Turin Museum

The Turin Erotic Papyrus (Papyrus 55001, also called the Erotic Papyrus or even Turin Papyrus) is an ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll-painting that was created during the Ramesside Period, approximately in 1150 B.C.[1][2] Discovered in Deir el-Medina in the early 19th century, it has been dubbed "world's first men's mag."[3] Measuring 8.5 feet (2.6 m) by 10 inches (25 cm), it consists of two parts, one of which contains twelve erotic vignettes depicting various sex positions.[1] It is currently housed by the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.[3]

Animal section[edit]

The first third depicts animals performing various human tasks. This part of the scroll-painting has been described as satirical and humorous.[1][4]

Erotic section[edit]

Containing twelve successive scenes, the erotic section takes up two-thirds of the Turin Papyrus.[1]

Not conforming to the convention of bodily perfection in ancient Egyptian art, the men depicted on the papyrus are "scruffy, balding, short, and paunchy" with exaggeratedly large genitalia.[5] In contrast, the women are nubile and appear with canonical erotic images of convolvulus leaves, Hathoric imagery, lotus flowers, monkeys and sistra.[5] Overall, the artistic merit of the images is high, suggesting that the Erotic Papyrus had an elite owner and audience.[1]

The various male images have also been interpreted as a single protagonist, who has several encounters with a courtesan.[4]


The severely damaged Erotic Papyrus is the only known erotic scroll-painting to have survived.[1]

Modern audiences often misconceive that ancient Egyptian art is devoid of sexual themes.[1] After Jean-François Champollion saw the papyrus in 1824 in Turin, he described it as "an image of monstrous obscenity that gave me a really strange impression about Egyptian wisdom and composure."[4][6]


The real significance of the images is yet unknown since those fragments of text that have survived reasonably intact have so far not yielded any clear purpose for the Erotic Papyrus.[2] The text appears to have been hastily written in the margins and would seem to express enjoyment and delight:

"... come behind me with your love, Oh! Sun, you have found out my heart, it is agreeable work..."[2][3]

According to French egyptologist Pascal Vernus, the papyrus is not intended to produce sexual excitement. Indeed, the apparent continuation between the animal section and the so-called "erotic" section suggests that the papyrus was intended to amuse members of the aristocracy by portraying absurd transgressions of aristocratic standards of behaviour.[4][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g David O'Connor Eros in Egypt. Archaeology Odyssey, September–October, 2001
  2. ^ a b c A A Shokeir and M I Hussein. "Sexual life in Pharaonic Egypt: towards a urological view." International Journal of Impotence Research (2004) 16, 385–388. doi:10.1038/sj.ijir.3901195
  3. ^ a b c "Turin Erotic Papyrus." Heritage Key. Accessed: September 27, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d "Erotic papyrus of Turin." egyptancient.net
  5. ^ a b Robert A. Schmidt, Barbara L. Voss. Archaeologies of sexuality. Psychology Press, 2000. ISBN 0-415-22366-0, ISBN 978-0-415-22366-9. Page 254.
  6. ^ The quote in the original French: "Ici un morceau du rituel funéraire,... et là des débris de peintures d'une obscénité monstrueuse et qui me donnent une bien singulière idée de la gravité et de la sagesse égyptienne..."
  7. ^ Pascal Vernus' lecture Turin Erotic Papyrus: a codified transgression at the Université Lille 3 on December 21, 2012.

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