The Oldest Known Illustration of Circumcision (2400 B.C.E.)

What do we have here? Just the old­est known illus­tra­tion of cir­cum­ci­sion being per­formed. Actu­al­ly, it’s a col­or­ful re-cre­ation of a bas-relief (see orig­i­nal here) found in an Egypt­ian tomb built for Ankhma­bor in Sakkara, Egypt. It dates back to around 2400 B.C.E.

The ori­gins of cir­cum­ci­sion remain unclear. Accord­ing to this online essay, a stele (carv­ing on stone) from the 23rd cen­tu­ry B.C.E. sug­gests that an author named “Uha” was cir­cum­cised in a mass rit­u­al. He wrote:

“When I was cir­cum­cised, togeth­er with one hun­dred and twen­ty men, there was none there­of who hit out, there was none there­of who was hit, and there was none there­of who scratched and there was none there­of who was scratched.”

By the time you get to 4,000 B.C.E., you start to find exhumed Egypt­ian bod­ies that show signs of cir­cum­ci­sion. And then come the artis­tic depic­tions. The Sakkara depic­tion comes with the per­haps help­ful writ­ten warn­ing,“Hold him and do not allow him to faint.”

via Elif Batu­man

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids Were Built: A New The­o­ry in 3D Ani­ma­tion

Louis Arm­strong Plays Trum­pet at the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids; Dizzy Gille­spie Charms a Snake in Pak­istan

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Comments (20)
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  • Randy says:

    “there was none there­of who hit out, there was none there­of who was hit, and there was none there­of who scratched and there was none there­of who was scratched.”

    That sug­gests that nor­mal­ly there would have been those who had to be forced to sub­mit to muti­la­tion of their gen­i­tals, but some fac­tor was caus­ing them to go will­ing­ly.

    It’s sad to know that after so many mil­len­nia, this prac­tice is still going on.

  • Anon says:

    No, it sug­gests that in an era long before anes­the­sia, a rit­u­al sur­geon could expect to be the tar­get of reflex­ive blows by those who were over­come by pain. The images and sec­ond inscrip­tion make that quite clear.

    Uha prob­a­bly men­tioned it as a mat­ter of brag­ging about his cir­cum­ci­sion group’s col­lec­tive dis­ci­pline.

  • Nater says:

    Cir­cum­ci­sion was ben­e­fi­cia­ry in this time since sand get­ting stuck in your fore­skin could get you infect­ed and you’d die.
    There’s noth­ing ben­e­fi­cial about cir­cum­ci­sion today.
    It kills off 2000 nerve end­ings, can cause dam­age to your penis, along with impo­tence and gland issues just from the removal of the fore­skin itself.

  • Buddy says:

    Wron­go, Nater. It is very evi­dent that Cir­cum­ci­sion in infants pre­vents penis can­cer and reduces the chances of catch­ing an std.

  • Stan says:

    I can under­stand a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny, that makes hun­dreds of mil­lions sell­ing lubri­cants to return nor­mal func­tion to gen­i­tals, being anti-choice — since it;s not reversible. But not a par­ent. Also, was­n’t it typ­i­cal­ly an Islam­ic or Jew­ish tra­di­tion to focus the mind on God?

  • Ren Kay says:

    well, let’s see.…what was the pur­pose in all those rules the Hebrews had? Pro­phy­lax­is, sur­vival in the desert. Don’t eat pig, don’t get trichi­nosis. Have one day a week off, breed and con­tin­ue to exist. Cir­cum­cise the males, don’t get STD’s. Whether it’s God or The Aliens, some sky per­son told that tribe how to live, and guess what? We’re still here today? Met any Canaan­ites late­ly? Duh…

  • Buddy says:

    Good call, Ren Kay. On that top­ic, it’s inter­est­ing how some reli­gions will incor­po­rate prac­tices that make phys­i­cal sense. This exam­ple is a good one, but also, we recent­ly dis­cov­ered that fast­ing for 72 hours will cause the body to kill off weak white blood cells and to cre­ate new and health­i­er white blood cells, once eat­ing has resumed. I am not reli­gious at all and humans clear­ly don’t know every­thing. But, it’s inter­est­ing that we observe prac­tices, or even trends, that yield pos­i­tive results, some­times, for what­ev­er rea­sons, super­sti­tious or oth­er­wise, and then we dis­cov­er valid and accu­rate sci­en­tif­ic ben­e­fits to them lat­er on. With an empha­sis on some­times.

  • Kelly Carter says:

    I think we’re now clos­er to being able to trans­late the squig­gly lines, snake, and bird sym­bols com­ing out of the guy on the right. It’s some­thing like, “Holy f#ck, this $h1t hurts like a m0th3r!!!”

  • Yahcanon Ben Ysrayl says:

    Gen 17:9 And YAH said to Aḇraham, “As for you, guard My covenant, you and your seed after you through­out their gen­er­a­tions.
    Gen 17:10 “This is My covenant which you guard between Me and you, and your seed after you: Every male child among you is to be cir­cum­cised.
    Gen 17:11 “And you shall cir­cum­cise the flesh of your fore­skin, and it shall become a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
    Gen 17:12 “And a son of eight days is cir­cum­cised by you, every male child in your gen­er­a­tions, he who is born in your house or bought with sil­ver from any for­eign­er who is not of your seed.
    Gen 17:13 “He who is born in your house, and he who is bought with your sil­ver, has to be cir­cum­cised. So shall My covenant be in your flesh, for an ever­last­ing covenant.
    Gen 17:14 “And an uncir­cum­cised male child, who is not cir­cum­cised in the flesh of his fore­skin, his life shall be cut off from his peo­ple – he has bro­ken My covenant.”
    Cur­cum­ci­sion dates back way longer than that eyg­pt­ian paint­ing.…
    Its the bond of the covenant between Abra­ham seed and YAH.. NOT THE JEWS.. But the HEBREWS..

  • James says:


    It is the great­est insan­i­ty when Judaists and even Chris­tians try to jus­ti­fy this bar­bar­ic rit­u­al of male gen­i­tal muti­la­tion.

    Mod­ern whites who invent­ed cars and jet planes cut­ting off their own bod­ies because African bar­bar­ians did so 4000 years ago! How insane!

  • John DeWerd says:

    I’m a docent with the Ori­en­tal Insti­tute (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go), where the stela of Uha is dis­played. I would actu­al­ly date it to around 2200 BCE, First Inter­me­di­ate Peri­od. I was home recov­er­ing from surgery and had way too much time to kill, so I decid­ed to do ny own trans­la­tion of the stela. It’s fair­ly straight for­ward.

    First, the act of cir­cum­ci­sion is not what real­ly makes this stela stand out. Although cir­cum­ci­sion does not seem to have been uni­ver­sal in pharaon­ic Egypt, what makes this ste­lae unusu­al is the descrip­tion of a mass cir­cum­ci­sion (“togeth­er with 120 men…”).

    Sec­ond, in prepar­ing to do the trans­la­tion, I kept com­ing across online inter­pre­ta­tions that 120 women were involved, too. This is not men­tioned in the inscrip­tion. Only men are described.

    Last, I see a lot of right­eous indig­na­tion about the act of cir­cum­ci­sion itself. This is bemus­ing to me. We all have opin­ions about such things, but it’s non­sen­si­cal to apply our mod­ern feel­ings to an ancient peo­ple and their cul­ture. And it is usu­al­ly a cul­tur­al tra­di­tion that applies in such cas­es.

  • Jones says:

    Hin­du, Chi­nese, etc. etc. were not cir­cum­cised and they are still here today…

  • Christine says:

    Why does every­one assume that the bas reliefs show men being cir­cum­cised? I am ready to toss the idea of mass cir­cum­ci­sion, and also that the ones in the bas reliefs being cut were cap­tives. We put such trust in arche­ol­o­gists and many, many times they don’t know. Their inter­pre­ta­tions are for­mu­lat­ed from today’s cus­toms. It says in Gen­e­sis that every young man should be taught, and on the 8th day… and auto­mat­i­cal­ly peo­ple think cir­cum­ci­sion was being being per­formed. A lot of div­ina­tion secrets can be found in the Bible because they were incor­po­rat­ed into reli­gion as reli­gious rit­u­al after div­ina­tion teach­ings were lost, but have lit­tle to do with what actu­al­ly hap­pened in the past. Even arche­o­log­i­cal author­i­ties inter­pret them incor­rect­ly because they were taught reli­gion. They make assump­tions. The pub­lic hears or reads these assump­tions and believes.

  • John says:

    I once saw a film of male babies being cir­cum­cised in
    a hos­pi­tal. There were maybe 6 (?) babies lined up on
    a board (?) The DR. strapped the babies down to keep
    them from mov­ing and get­ting in the way. No anes­thet­ic was applied

    The DR. then used a tool that crushed the fore­skin then cut it off. The infant was scream­ing so hard that he could­n’t breathe.
    I can’t imag­ine any moth­er allow­ing their baby to be
    cir­cum­cised if they saw this film.
    I also won­der how the doc­tor could do this.
    In my opin­ion, Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices is hard­ly doing their job when they allow this bar­bar­ic prac­tice to con­tin­ue. Anoth­er thing, as the baby becomes an old­er adult, they will lose more and more
    feel­ing in their penis because the glans of their penis no longer is pro­tect­ed.

  • Mike says:

    Evi­dent that cir­cum­ci­sion pre­vents can­cer and stds? Says who? A doc­tor sell­ing you a surgery… cir­cum­ci­sion in Amer­i­ca start­ed as a way to pun­ish and cure mas­tur­ba­tion in the 1870s. Even into the 1950s it was rec­om­mend­ed to con­trol the urge for that sin­ful feel­ing. Soon enough they made up a list of ill­ness­es cured by cir­cum­ci­sion. No dif­fer­ent than today.

  • Kippir Ateem says:

    Ren Ren­nee,

    The only rea­son why there aren’t many L1, L2, L3, M, N and R1 dna orig­i­nal Black Kanah­nites left has noth­ing to do with cir­cum­ci­sion.

    It has every­thing to do with the racist (Gen­e­sis 10:21) neo-Nazi Eberite Hebrews rap­ing, rob­bing, mur­der­ing, slur­ring, and steal­ing the land and cul­ture of the orig­i­nal Black Kanah­nites.

    Specif­i­cal­ly, per Gen­e­sis 34, did­n’t the Eberite Hebrew’s 2nd son Sime­on and their 3rd son Levi com­mit the first record­ed case of GENOCIDE by killing every Black man in the City of Shechem?

    And per Joshua 6:20–22 did­n’t the Eberite Hebrews com­mit the sec­ond record­ed case of GENOCIDE against the Black Kanah­nites by mur­der­ing, anni­hi­lat­ing, exter­mi­nat­ing, and wip­ing out of exis­tence every Black Kanah­nite man, woman, child, and baby in the City of Jeri­cho?

    Then, did­n’t Judah P. Ben­jamin, and David Yulee, the first two racist T1, T2, T3, T4, T6 & T8 dna Uzbek­istan white Ashke­nautzi Jews in the U.S. Sen­ate lead the South­ern Demo­c­rat Con­fed­er­a­cy in OPPOSING Pres­i­dent Lin­coln and the fine (Repub­li­can) Jew­ish Sen­a­tor out of Michi­gan Jacob Mer­ritt Howard who wrote the 13th and 14th amend­ments?

    And isn’t it also true that after the South­ern Demo­c­rat Con­fed­er­ate Jews oppressed inno­cent Black peo­ple back in 1836, exact­ly 100 yrs lat­er, Adolph Hitler read about the deprav­i­ty of the South­ern Jews, so he did to the Jews exact­ly what their kins­men did to the Black man?

    Just thought u would like to know.

  • Kippir Ateem says:



    The orig­i­nal (Gen­e­sis 10:6–20) MC1R dark skin col­or gene L1 dna Black Egypt­ian Hamites nev­er enslaved any­one.

    That’s why u can’t pro­duce a word for slave or slav­ery in the Egypt­ian:

    MIDOO (words / writ­ing of)
    NITTEER (the Gods)

    Paid ser­vants (bauts) and pris­on­ers of war are not slaves.

    Next, there’s not 1 record of the Black man in Egypt enslav­ing the Eberite Hebrews for over 400 yrs.

    Nor can u take me to just 1 grave, let alone a ceme­tery that con­tains the remains of all the pur­port­ed Eberite Hebrews who sup­pos­ed­ly wer enslaved by the Black man in Egypt

    This proves the Bible is part fact (Gen­e­sis 10:6–20), part fic­tion, and part alle­go­ry.

    Just thought u would like to know.

  • Thomas Arthur Wiggins says:

    A cure and pun­ish­ment for mas­ter­bas­tion???

  • Jim says:

    Cut­ting off the feet is also proven to reduce fatigue from walk­ing and fun­gus in toe nails.
    Most stu­pid argu­ment ever.
    Stop muti­late chil­dren’s gen­i­tals. If they want it as an adult they can have it done then.

  • Sharon ODonnell says:

    There is a whole chap­ter on the ben­e­fits of cir­cum­ci­sion for
    New Gen­tile believ­ers. Whether they should or should­n’t be cir­cum­cised like the Jews .

    A Gird your mind kind of thing .

    Romans 2:25–29
    Cir­cum­ci­sion of No Avail
    25 For cir­cum­ci­sion is indeed prof­itable if you keep the law; but if you are a break­er of the law, your cir­cum­ci­sion has become uncir­cum­ci­sion. 26 There­fore, if an uncir­cum­cised man keeps the right­eous require­ments of the law, will not his uncir­cum­ci­sion be count­ed as cir­cum­ci­sion? 27 And will not the phys­i­cal­ly uncir­cum­cised, if he ful­fills the law, judge you who, even with your [a]written code and cir­cum­ci­sion, are a trans­gres­sor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one out­ward­ly, nor is cir­cum­ci­sion that which is out­ward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inward­ly; and cir­cum­ci­sion is that of the heart, in the Spir­it, not in the let­ter; whose [b]praise is not from men but from God.
    Romans 15:4–13
    For what­so­ev­er things were writ­ten afore­time were writ­ten for our learn­ing, that we through patience and com­fort of the scrip­tures might have hope

    .yes there are white char­ac­ters being cir­cum­cised in Egypt on a
    24th cen­tu­ry BC engrav­ing
    is enlightening..ha

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