Thursday, July 5, 2018


THE British Museum has gathered a collection of objects with LGBTQ connections, including the world’s oldest known depiction of a couple having sex ... an 11,000-year-old carved calcite pebble ... to be sent on a national tour of Britain.

The pebble, called the Ain Sakhri, possibly depicts gay sex, as the figures portrayed in it are ambiguous. 

Other items which may go on tour include a bust of Antinous ... the famous Townley bust of the Roman emperor Hadrian's beloved.

Also in the tour will be a silver cup buried near Jerusalem in the 1st century AD showing men having sex and which was sold to the British Museum by a gay American art collector.

The museum has created an audio tour of the objects in London.

The museum will send a number of them out on a four-venue tour of England starting in September 2018 and running through 2019.

Fiona Shaw and Simon Russell Beale, who narrated the audio tour, said people would be surprised by the number of objects in the Museum with LGBTQ connections.

"Many might even have seen some of them on display without knowing how they relate to queer history," Beale said. "I'm thrilled that, thanks to this new audio tour, these stories will now take pride of place. Same-sex desire has existed in all societies and it is really important that the British Museum is highlighting this."

The Ain Sakhri shows a couple making love. Because the figures are ambiguous the museum does not assume they are of different sexes.

The figurine, which was found in a cave in the Judean desert, was made by hunter-gatherers known as Natufians who were among the first people to domesticate sheep and goats. Whoever carved it has ensured that its shape is phallic but the genders are not clear.

Other objects going on the tour, which begins in Oxford and goes on to Nottingham, Bolton and Norwich, include an ancient Greek vase depicting Sappho; etchings of gay sex by David Hockney, inspired by the poems of C P Cavafy; and a deck of cards depicting drag queens, produced in Japan in 1997.

The touring show is an expanded version of the museum's Desire, love, identity: Exploring LGBTQ histories display, which was staged last year.

The audio tour will offer further insight into the 1st Century AD silver drinking cup, known as the Warren Cup after the 19th-century gay Bostonian collector NED WARREN, who is a Saint of Antinous. 

He saw the cup as the "holy grail" of gay history because it showed the existence and acceptance of homosexuality long ago.

The cup will be part of on-site tours at the British Museum in 2019 ... the 50th anniversary of John Wolfenden becoming its director. Wolfenden chaired the committee whose landmark 1957 report recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

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