Araldo de Luca/Whitestar

Some Egyptian images, such as this 20-inch-high relief of Tutankhamun shooting an arrow in the presence of his wife, may prudently depict sexual activity in coded form. Made of gold leaf attached to wood with stucco, this intimate tableau was originally found inside a small silver sledge in the pharaoh’s tomb. Coded sexual messages—in depictions of fruit, birds, salves, musical instruments, beds and other objects—may be common in Egyptian art. Such encodement would have allowed ancient Egyptians to represent sexuality while remaining within the bounds of decorum demanded by temple and tomb settings.