Project title: : Archaeological-philological-ethno-historical study of fundamental aspects of the penis, its symbolism and meaning in Ancient Egypt
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Tanja Pommerening, Prof. Dr. Alexander Pruß
The penis, understood as a physical characteristic for the formation of different and certain categories (such as gender, social status or cultural identity) and influenced by social and religious practices, is regarded in connection with the subject of body, sex, fertility and power as a theoretical reference and point of discussion of interdisciplinary and international research on masculinity or gender.
An examination of the penis as part of the gender research makes it necessary to distinguish between the different cultural and social contexts in which it appears. Therefore, it not only symbolises sex, eroticism or "gender", but also power, identity or magical influence. However, the penis also plays an important role both as a necessary object and as a missing signifier, in the sense that its omission is important in understanding different contexts. In this way, it not only provides information about concepts such as nudity, but also about social status and age and clarifies epoch-related differences.
The penis with an erect shape, more precisely phallus, was already known in ancient times as a worshipping object with admired and magical powers and as a symbol of superiority. From Egypt it is especially known the meaning of the phallus in its fertility function, as a generative organ of the man as well as of the god, whereby its function as a device of hope and decisive element for the reproduction, for example, is well represented. It also appears as an identifying symbol of various deities. The function of the phallus can play an important role in the representation of a deity - such as Min -. In other gods such as Osiris or Amun, the phallus appears only to indicate the meaning of a situation or narrative.
Aspects like masculinity, royal and non-royal power, which are symbolically connected to the penis, have so far been little studied in Egyptology, except for studies mainly on sex, eroticism or in connection with deities
The aim of this doctoral project is to grasp the fundamental aspects, meaning and symbolism of the penis in ancient Egypt. Therefore, it is intended to carry out an interdisciplinary study based on gender research, but also following other research directions, such as sociology or history of religion. The purpose of this dissertation is to combine these different research directions in order to prove the complex links between religious, political and social aspects of the penis in ancient Egypt depending on time, space and context.
Of particular interest to this study are the philological sources (for example, medical, religious, magical or literary texts), iconographic representations (like a reliefs in tombs, statues or amulets), but also archaeological sources such as mummies or penis sheaths.
Similarities to other cultures should also be included in the study to compare different aspects of the penis in ancient Egypt with those in other ancient cultures (such as Mesopotamia, Greece or Rome).