Pebble showing world's oldest known depiction of people having sex to go on show in Norwich library
PUBLISHED: 13:05 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 20:17 26 June 2018
A pebble which has been sculpted into the earliest known depiction of a couple having sex is to go on display in a Norfolk library, as part of a British Museum tour exploring gay history.
Ain Sakhri Lovers is thought to be 11,000 years old and features two figures, both of “ambiguous” gender, “making love, face-to-face in a sitting position”.
Discovered in a cave near Bethlehem, the figurine has an overall “phallic shape” and may have been used by the Natufians - an ancient Middle East people who were among the first cultures to domesticate sheep and goats - for rituals associated with fertility.
The object will travel the country for the first time, in a British Museum exhibition exploring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and queer histories.
British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said of the Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories exhibition tour, which begins in September: “The British Museum has always been open to everyone, presenting all cultures to visitors from around the world.
“It is hugely important that institutions like ours meaningfully present LGBTQ art and history, so I am delighted that we are offering these new tours that explore the LGBTQ experiences found throughout our collection, both ancient and modern.”
Norfolk is one of just four ports of call for the tour, with the stone due to be displayed at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, at the Forum in the city centre, during July 2019.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the National Justice Museum in Nottingham and Bolton Museum And Library Service are the other stops for the tour.
A bust of Antinous, whose love affair with Roman emperor Hadrian is one of the most famous in antiquity, could also form part of the tour.
According to documents from the time, Hadrian “wept like a woman” at his lover’s death.
The news of the tour comes as the British Museum, announced on-site tours of the LGBTQ objects at its site in Bloomsbury, London.
Before the opening of the physical tour, the museum will launch an audio tour, narrated by actors Fiona Shaw and Simon Russell Beale.