Sunday, April 3, 2011

1st Known Gay Couple: Khanumhotep and Niankhkhanum

Khanumhotep and Niankhkhanum (2400 B.C)

I've been looking at examples of Gay Love from History as research for a new show I am creating about Gay Love and I was wondering who the earliest known gay couple was. Obviously gay love dates back to the dawn of humankind but who are the first gay lovers on record?

It turns out the first known gay couple dates back to the 5th dynasty Egypt, Niankhkhanum and Khanumhotep royal manicurists of The Great House.
All we know of them today is what we can gather from their shared tomb in the pyramid of King Unas. The couple was very close to the king and shared the title of Overseer of the Manicurists and was quite possibly responsible for the personal grooming of the king. The tomb walls show scenes of men shaving the back, beard, head, legs, and groins of customers.
Niankhkhanum is often depicted in a position of dominance in relation to Khanumhotep. And Khanumhotep is the only person in the tomb, besides women, depicted smelling the lotus flower. The couple's relationship was apparently so intimate that their names are actually combined to read as one in some places in the tomb: Niankh/Khanum/hotep. And the love they shared was apparently so strong that they were meant to be eternally united in this way.

There are many depictions of them on the tomb walls inspecting goods, fishing or hunting together, or sitting with their arms around each other. There are even some, in the deepest part of the tomb, where the men are shown embracing nose to nose and their belts are touching almost as if they are linked together. It is the most intimate embrace possible in Egyptian art. And it is there in the offering chapel deep beneath the Causeway of Unas and the hot sands of Egypt where the two men stand in an embrace meant to last for eternity.


  1. Wow. This is great stuff...and what awesome reference pictures! I want a Niankh/Khanum/hotep nail job! Excited for the Gay Love Show!

  2. Does this mean there was historical precedent for "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"?!?!?