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

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Comments (19)
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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.

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