Oldest depictions of rude gestures
April 2, 2021 11:58 PM   Subscribe

What are the oldest known visual depictions of people making insulting gestures? As a rule of thumb, answers should not be about depictions of violence, but something that can be reasonably interpreted as mocking or insulting displays (as much as we can tell such things about ancient cultures and traditions).
posted by primal to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Supposedly, the finger goes all the way back to ancient Greece and Roman times.

posted by kschang at 12:10 AM on April 3, 2021

There’s also that whole thing about “do you bite your thumb at me?” at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet
posted by rd45 at 1:58 AM on April 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You would like this book about classical Roman gestures.
posted by aetg at 3:18 AM on April 3, 2021

Best answer: Insofar as 1977 is ancient history, Desmond Morris's book Manwatching has profusely illustrated sections on Insult, Threat and Obscene gestures. Sheela-na-gigs, where the gesture is down there and not necessarily insulting are not as old as you might think: no examples are more than 1000 years old. This manu fica amulet is twice that age.
posted by BobTheScientist at 4:37 AM on April 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In his 2015 essay The Finger, or "Bird Is the Word," artist and former Fashion Institute of Technology art history professor Rob Chirico writes:
The first documented appearance of the finger in the United States was in 1886 when Old Hoss Radbourn, a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters, was photographed giving it to a member of the rival New York Giants.
The photograph of said bird-flipping.
posted by virago at 8:47 AM on April 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The first reliable documented incidence of 🖔 is only 1901, despite its received-wisdom origin story having it much older.
posted by scruss at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2021

Not 1000 years old (but still several hundred years old) are the infamous "Japanese Fart Scrolls," to which I'm very happy to refer at the slightest prompting.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:32 AM on April 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

mano figa
posted by Brittanie at 12:33 PM on April 7, 2021

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