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Egyptians Had More Equality than Once Thought


Ancient Egypt continues to weave its magic over contemporary society, thousands of years after its hey day in the Bronze Age. Of all the many ancient civilisations, it captivates and entrances. This is not only due to its undoubted amazing archaeology, but also the persistence of many of its philosophical ideas. The Egyptians gave us units of time measurement such as the hour, and the fact that there there approximately three hundred and sixty odd days in a year. They believed that after death, people's deeds were weighed up before they proceeded to the afterlife, a concept pinched by the Ancient Israelites and eventually incorporated into the new religion of Christianity. However, this is not the place for theological discourse. What a documentary screened on Channel Five Television at the weekend revealed however, is startling new evidence of gender equality in Egypt, and ideas of ritual that were surprisingly modern. Doctor Coleen Darnell and her husband John explained on camera that women appear to have been legally equal to men, something not heard of in many other contemporary empires. They could take men to court and in matters of love could initiate a no fault divorce. In the last few years, more has come to light, with some priestesses granted the highest honours in the land, and overseeing ecstatic revelries in which love making and drunkenness were pursued to bring participants closer to the gods. Although destroyed by moralising later fanatics of the new religions of Christianity and Islam, some carvings showing the sacred erections of the progenitor god Amun have survived from antiquity. These tantalising clues suggest that the country's attitude towards sex was more enlightened than previous researchers had believed. Evidence for samesex relationships are scant, but one intriguing tomb relief appears to show two males depicted in the same pose as a man and wife. Archaeologists dispute what it might mean, but we think we know the answer.

Gender History
Bronze Age
Ancient Civilization

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