Ain Sakhri lovers, an ancient piece of carved stone Ain Sakhri lovers, an ancient piece of carved stone The sculpture, known as the "Ain Sakhri Lovers," is the oldest art we have of people enjoying some sexy times. (Photo: The British Museum)

This might be the oldest sexy art in history

The people who invented agriculture and domesticated animals also created the first sculpture of a couple having sex 11,000 years ago.

Erotic art seems like a modern invention, something that must have come after the prude Victorian days. But in fact, it's far older than that. It's even older than ancient Indian and Greek civilizations, who made what many people think of as the original erotic art. In fact, it's older than kingdoms, money and cities.

The oldest piece of sexy art was made about 11,000 years ago, just as humans were starting to invent agriculture. It's a carved stone object known as the "Ain Sakhri Lovers," and is the oldest known depiction, in any art form, of two people having sex. In the sculpture, two faceless, genderless figures wrap around each other in the throes of passion. Feel free to look at it again.

Pretty hot, right? In the early 20th century, a Bedouin man found the object in the Ain Sakhri caves near the Israeli city of Bethlehem. The piece made its way to a local museum, where no one thought it particularly significant. Then, in 1933, a French diplomat from Jerusalem named René Neuville happened to come through the museum. He noticed the sexy sculpture and was intrigued, immediately thinking it might be important. He found the Bedouin man, who led him to the caves, which is where the piece got its name.

A building in a Neolithic archaeological site.A building in a Neolithic archaeological site. Perhaps friends or family of the sculptor lived in a building like this. (Photo: Anton Ivanov/Shutterstock)

As it turned out, that cave was really important. Archaeologists dug into it, as archaeologists are wont to do, and discovered that an ancient people called the Natufians lived there 11,000 years ago.

This culture is pretty much the important ancient people jackpot: they basically kicked off the Agricultural Revolution, the event that transformed humans from hunter-gatherer bands to, well, what we call civilization. They started farming and domesticating animals. Cities, money and kings were all the result of this change.

The "Ain Sakhri Lovers" is currently at the British Museum, where it remains, like the people who made it, a connection between our ancient roots and our modern world. Since it was found in a dwelling, archaeologists think it was not some sort of formal ritualistic item, but rather, a piece of artwork people kept in their homes.

The site of the two houses in jerusalem predates previously believed habitation in the area by some 2,000 years.Archaeologists uncover ancient houses near the Israeli city of Bethlehem. (Photo: Leore Grosman and team)

"Whether we see the Ain Sakhri lovers as a piece of erotica, a tender expression of homosexual or heterosexual love, a symbol of fertility, masculinity or a metaphor for creation, depends on our own background and beliefs," said Jill Cook, a curator at the British Museum. "As we enjoy the ingenious composition and skillful artistry, we connect our present to its deep past and a period of significant transformation in human history."

Cavemen are often depicted as brainless, violent and almost inhuman, but reminders like this prove otherwise. The most striking thing about this sculpture is arguably its relatability. It's no stilted amateur art or incomprehensible alien artifact. It's a carefully crafted piece that anyone could understand, no matter what language they speak or age in history they're from. The tender connection between the two lovers has not changed in the last 11,000 years. Humans have changed a lot, but in some ways, they've remained exactly the same.


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Related Topics: Archaeology

This might be the oldest sexy art in history
The oldest piece of erotic art was made about 11,000 years ago, just as humans were starting to invent agriculture.