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History's Very First Sexual Assault Claim May Have Been in Ancient Egypt

Those who do not learn history are doomed to miserably repeat it and wind up on Cairoscene.

In what perhaps comes as no surprise, seeing as history has this awful habit of repeating itself, a recently discovered papyrus by Egyptologist Henry Salt, dubbed “Papyrus Salt 124,” (nice Xbox handle), has revealed the shameful and just plain disappointing criminal record of one “Paneb.” Old Paneb here stood accused of multiple counts of corruption and sexual assault, and the story behind it all is one for the ages.

Apparently, Paneb was a distinguished craftsman in a community of artisans called Deir el Medina – prized for building many a Pharaoh’s tomb way back in the day. In stark contrast to the valour of his craft, however, Paneb was accused by another craftsman called Amennakht of stealing an inherited position by bribing the vizier at the time, in addition to raiding many of the tombs he worked on, according to the Papyrus 124; which was a written complaint addressed to the Vizier of the time, Hori.

What’s truly sickening, however, are the accusations of horrific sexual misconduct and assault he was held responsible for; one such case is the stripping, manhandling and violating of a woman by the name of Yeyemwaw, in addition to the myriad other accusations of “debauching” other women further down the list. Two things we can glean from this; sexual misconduct wasn’t as much of a big deal back then (kind of like right now), and that it took a shit tonne of accusations for it to be considered an actual crime worth talking about. “Even more interesting than what’s in the document is what is left out—namely, the question of consent—which raises fascinating questions not just about ancient Egypt but about the modern world as well,” wrote historian Carly Silver.

Eventually, Paneb got his just deserts (hopefully naked in a pit of disgruntled scorpions), and in a time where this sort of intolerable crime sways between callous indifference and vehement retribution, it's a lesson to learn from.

Photo from Narrative.ly.


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