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Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum

Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were Egyptian servants found buried together in the tomb of King Unas. Their bodies were intertwined and their faces were nose-to-nose—funereal gestures usually reserved for married couples.

The two, who lived around 2400 B.C. in the ancient city of Saqqara, were manicurists to the royal court and among the few people allowed to touch the pharaoh.

Their tomb was uncovered in 1964, and early reports referred to them as brothers or “twins.” But by the late ’90s egyptologist Greg Reeder was convinced they were a romantic couple.

Niankhkhnum’s wife was depicted sitting behind him in a banquet scene in the tomb, but her image was obscured. In other scenes, Khnumhotep occupies the place normally associated with wives.

In some hieroglyphs, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s names are strung together in a way that could mean “joined in life and in death.”

Said Reeder, “same-sex desire existed just behind the ideal facade constructed by the ancients.”

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