Sex in ancient Egypt is not your typical icebreaker, but on Friday at the University of Memphis it will be.
Liz Cummins, an adjunct professor at the University of Reno, Nevada, will talk about sexual activity in ancient Egypt at the University Center Fountain View Room at 7 p.m.
Cummins was featured in the documentary, “Sex in the Ancient World-Egyptian Erotica,” that aired on the History Channel, where she spoke about art and texts related to not only sex, but also divine birth imagery and fertility.
She graduated from the U of M in 2003, having received a master’s degree in art history with a concentration in Egyptian art.
For a year, she lived in Egypt conducting research for her dissertation, specializing in ancient Egyptian and Roman art. Cummins dissertation was on the relationship between the bed, sexual activity and death.
“We know Liz from way back when she was just a young sprout,” Patricia Podzorski, curator for the ancient Egyptian collection at the University of Memphis said.
Podzorski also said it’s very exciting that a graduate student chose one of their own.
“Similar to our culture, sleep is a metaphor for death, but it also can be a metaphor for death in ancient Egypt, and of course, sex happens on a bed,” Podzorski said. “That’s where I presume the sex in ancient Egypt comes from.”
They also associated pleasurable things with sex, like music.
As seen on the program flyer posted around on the walls at the University of Memphis, a drawing of young woman is playing the harp on a bed, next to a man who is enjoying the music.
Podzorski claims this was about as racy as the drawings were at the time.
“The bed is a functional piece of furniture,” Podzorski said. “It is a daily use object. But the images of the bed carry symbolism related to this life, and the afterlife. The bed as the Egyptians anticipated in the afterlife would be very much like this, that includes having sex.”
Professor and director of Egyptian art and archaeology, Lorelei Corcoran, claims that not all Egyptians were prudist, even though they rarely referred directly to sex. They also wrote love poems.
“They were very much interested in romance,” Corcoran said. “They also wrote about forbidden love. A lot of them had to do with being head over heels for each other.”
The Institute of Egyptian Arts and Archeology hosts programs and lectures throughout the year.
The IEAA provides educational experiences to its attendants by bringing in Egyptologists to the University of Memphis for lectures.
“We have a very active graduate student group for Egyptology,” Corcoran said. “They bring in two speakers a year and the speakers select the topic.”
The free event is on March 18, and is open to the public. Sex is not the only topic Egypt experts will discuss this week. Stephen Vinson will host a lecture titled,
“The ‘First Tale of Setne Khaemwas’ and the African American Reception of Ancient Egypt, 1939-1988” Tuesday. In it Vinson will speak about ancient Egyptian works on African- American literature. The event will take place at 7 p.m.