Ancient phalluses made from stone and dried camel dung started trend for sex aids
- A siltstone phallus found in Germany is said to date back 28,000 years
- It is quoted as being the oldest known ‘sex toy’ ever discovered
- Phalluses made from stone, wood, leather and even camel dung have all been found during excavations, or referenced in historical text and images
- The Wellcome Collection has a number of sexual artefacts on display as part of its Institute of Sexology exhibition
For thousands of years, phallic objects have been used symbolically as a means to boost fertility and ward off evil spirits – but their use as sexual aids has a long history, too.
A 28,000-year-old phallus found in Germany recently, for example, is quoted as being the oldest known ‘sex toy’ ever found.
While phalluses made from stone, wood, leather and even camel dung have all be found during excavations, or referenced throughout historical text and images.
To celebrate this expansive history of sexual experience, the Wellcome Collection currently has a number of ceremonial sculptures shaped – among other sexual artefacts – as part of its Institute of Sexology exhibition.
In the Middle East, historical reports reference Egyptians and the Greek using unripe bananas, or camel dung coated in resin as sexual aids.
But the aids were used much earlier, as far back as 500BC, when phalluses were carved out of stone, leather or wood. Some were even made from tar.
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In ancient Greece, in particular, reports claim traders in the city of Miletus made and sold objects called ‘olisbos’, intended to help wives achieve sexual penetration while their husbands were away.
The aids were also used in Renaissance Italy, and were typically made of leather and used with olive oil for lubrication.
High class members of society would even display their sex toys, often made from silver, gold and ivory.
However, they were said to be painful to use and their popularity waned. The first dildos didn’t arrive in the UK until the 1500s.
Honor Beddard, co-curator at the Wellcome Collection said: ‘The Institute of Sexology presents the study of sex in all its complexity and contradiction.
‘It brings together the diverse collections of data, art, testimony and objects of those who challenged preconceived ideas about sex and tells the human stories behind the charting of sexual experience.
‘Highlighting the profound effect that gathering and analysing information can have in changing attitudes about the human condition, the exhibition reveals our understanding of sexual identity as an ever-evolving story.’
The exhibition features rare archival material, erotica, film, photography, medical artefacts and ethnography, all related to sex.
In 2005, a 7.8-inch (20cm) long, 1.1-inch (3cm) wide stone object was found in the Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.
The prehistoric ‘tool’ is made from 14 fragments of siltstone and dates back 28,000 years.
Due to its size, experts believe it may be the earliest example of a sex aid ever found, but could have also been used for knapping flints to help light fires, said Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tübingen University.
During excavations at Neolithic site Membury Rings in Dorset in the early 20th century, archaeologists found various deposits of artefacts and other material, including antler, animal and human bone, flints and carved chalk.
Among these artefacts was a phallic-shaped object made from chalk and measures approximately 4-inches long. However, its use is unknown.
But the sculptures weren’t just used for sexual pleasure.
In some pagan cultures, a female orgasm was seen as an offering to the gods of fertility, while the phallic symbol was popular during ancient Roman times.
In particular, statues of fertility god Priapus with a large phallus would be used to protect gardens and help crops grow.
In Greek mythology, Priapus was depicted with oversized, permanent erection, which is where the name for the medical term priapism originated.
Priapism is a persistent and often painful erection that lasts for several hours – in rare case, for weeks.
A solid bronze amulet, in the form of Priapus, is among the artefacts displayed at the Wellcome Collection.
Phallic charms of the time were known as fascinum, and were even found in the ruins of Pompeii, and it was believed that the symbols could ward off evil spirits.
Used in ancient Roman religion and magic, the fascinum referred to the god Fascinus. The phallus was used to summon divine protection.
Meanwhile, the phallic deity Mutunus Tutunus was a symbol of marital sex.
The ‘Veedee’ massager (pictured) is said to have been used by doctors to cure Victorian women of hysteria. But this has been disputed as myth
In Turkey, during the 6th century BC, ancient Anatolians used sculptures of sex organs to ward off evil and ill luck as they believed they contained special powers.
Much later, in 18th century France, the first vibrator called Tremoussoir was built. It was a handheld, wind-up contraption designed by physicians.
In 1869, an American physician George Taylor is credited as creating a steam-powered version called the Manipulator, before an electromechanical vibrator was developed in 1880 by Dr Joseph Granville.
Far from being sexual aids, these devices were said to have been used to treat female hysteria.
Reports claim that doctors as far back as the 13th century doubted that women had libidos and advised using sex toys to alleviate sexual frustration.
Physicians during the 20th century would then use vibrators for clitoral stimulation to treat this so-called hysteria, which comes from the Greek word for uterus.
Symptoms for hysteria included anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability and erotic fantasies.
One such vibrator, called Veedee, is on display at the Wellcome Collection, but a spokesman told MailOnline that its use as a Victorian tool by doctors to induce orgasms has been disputed as myth.
The first rubber dildos have been traced back to around 1850 and they started appearing in movies during the 1930s and 1940s.
At this point, many were called marital aids, rather than sexual aids.
‘At the turn of the century, the vibrator kind of split into two product lines,’ explained technology historian Rachel Maines.
‘One was for doctors and one was for consumers and doctors really hated the idea that there were consumer vibrators out there.
‘There were these relatively inexpensive, some that looked like an egg beater for people who didn’t have electricity. And there were battery powered ones.
‘There were even water-powered ones that you could attach to your sink!’