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Bas Relief Depicts Circumcision in Ancient Egypt

Relic from 2400 BCE  believed to be the oldest illustration of the ritual

Stephanie Butnick
June 18, 2014
(Open Culture)
(Open Culture)

Male circumcision, particularly the Jewish ritual performed on week-old Jewish newborns known as a bris, has become in recent years a hotly debated practice, with proposed bans popping up across Europe and advocates, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, speaking out for and against the ancient ritual.

Just how ancient are we talking? Open Culture (via Elif Batuman via Bibliphilia) posted an image of what is believed to be the oldest known illustration depicting circumcision. It’s a recreation from around 2400 B.C.E. of a bas relief found in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

Needless to say, ancient Egyptian intactivists would have had a field day with this image.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.