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British Museum to launch UK tour of LGBTQ objects


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This Pride month, the British Museum has announced a UK tour of LGBTQ objects in its collection.

It will include the world’s oldest known depiction of a couple having sex, an 11,000-year-old stone carving called the Ain Sakhri. As the figures shown have no discernible gender, it is not certain that the couple is heterosexual.

The sculpture, discovered in caves near Bethlehem, is thought to have been used by the Natufian people in fertility rituals. This is the first time that it will go on tour in the UK.

It will be exhibited in the Museum’s four-venue tour along with a series of other objects including a Maori treasure box carved with intertwined human figures and a N’domo masquerade mask.

The tour, called ‘Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories’, will travel to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the National Justice Museum, Nottingham; Bolton Library and Museum Service; and the Norwich Millennium Library.

Items displayed on the tour are taken from a display launched in 2017 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.

The British Museum also announced on-site tours of LGBTQ objects to take place next year.

These tours may include a bust of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who publicly lauded his lover Antinous across the whole of the empire when Antinous drowned in 130 AD.

Also included could be the Warren Cup, which dates from the first century AD and shows two different scenes of homosexual sex. It could not be publicly displayed in the UK for most of the 20th century, as homosexuality was illegal, and it was refused entry to the USA by customs officials in 1953 due to its ‘pornographic’ nature.

The Museum has called for volunteers to lead the tours and help decide on their content.

Museum Director Hartwig Fischer said: “It is hugely important that institutions like ours meaningfully present LGBTQ art and history, so I am delighted that we are offering these new tours that explore the LGBTQ experiences found throughout our collection, both ancient and modern.”

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