new quest for the historical satan

אם תהיה רעה בעיר ויהוה לא עשה
“If there is evil in a city, has Yahweh not done it?” Amos 3:6


"The Quest for the Historcal Satan" by Miguel De La Torre and Albert Hernandez

"The Quest for the Historical Satan" by Miguel De La Torre and Albert Hernandez

A new book entitled “Quest for the Historical Satan” is scheduled to be released this August 2011 (Amazon). The authors, Iliff School of Theology (Denver, CO) Professors Miguel De La Torre and Albert Hernandez, argue the following:

The figure of Satan has for centuries embodied or incarnated absolute evil. Existing alongside more intellectualist interpretations of evil, Satan has figured largely in Christian practices, devotions, popular notions of the afterlife, and fears of retribution in the beyond. Satan remains an influential reality today in many Christian traditions and in popular culture. But how should Satan be understood today?

De La Torre and Hernandez’s volume probes the murky origins of the satanic legends and beliefs back to their pre-Christian roots in the Middle East. They unearth the Satan’s roots in Egyptian and Babylonian understandings of evil. They also show, however, that the ancient Satan has some characteristics we would hardly recognize, especially his appearance in most ancient cultures and survival in many traditional religions as the “trickster” figure. While a minor tradition in historic Christianity, the authors argue, seeing Satan as trickster is historically accurate and holds real promise for Christian rethinking in “theology, philosophy, and practice of evil” and how it can be dealt with. This is a fascinating story that helps the reader reframe basic elements of our worldview of good and evil.

Bible and Interpretation has an essay from the book’s authors here, which concludes:

Viewing Satan as trickster is not without problems, specifically the ambiguity that exists between Satan and God—an ambiguity that can find its full expression in the trickster figure. Rather than being God’s antithesis, God’s opposite, a certain ambiguity, if not complimentary position is held by Satan. If Satan has no power except that given by God, we are left wondering whether evil can come from God, a proposition which the early biblical writers and ancient Church Fathers like Augustine raised. We heard the prophet Amos asking “If there is evil in a city, has Yahweh not done it?” (Amos 3:6). More disturbing is the passage where God sends evil spirits to torment King Saul (1 Sam 18:10). Such a proposition has the potential of dismissing any notion regarding God’s ultimate goodness. Once we eliminate Satan as some type of quasi-deity who can be blamed for all of the evils which befall humanity, we are left asking if God has a dark side. What is more, if Satan is only carrying out God’s divine will; then does this mean that God is the ultimate trickster?

(The entire essay is worth a read.)

Setting aside the obvious question about the “historical questing” for anything theological or superhuman, the book should offer an interesting critique of what has become the standard view of Satan as absolute evil (and conversely of God as purely good). How did ancient Israel go from a singular monotheist faith (at least in a prescribed, orthodox sense) to a Christian pantheon of good and evil divine beings complete with names and characteristics?

I’ll read the book when it arrives. It should give rise to some discussion.

HT: Toto

job available at ucla: librarian for advanced research and engagement

UCLAPosition: Librarian for Advanced Research & Engagement
Institution:
UCLA
Posted:
April 21, 2011
Location:
California (UCLA Campus in Westwood Village, Los Angeles)
Employment Level:
Non tenure track
Website:
http://www.ucla.edu
Application Deadline: Open until filled
Category: Librarians/ library administration
Employment Status: Full-time
Rank and Salary: $56,496 to $88,488 USD
Salary and appointment level based on experience and qualifications.
Associate Librarian IV – VII ($56,496 – $68,892)
Librarian Rank I – IV ($68,892 – $88,488)
Department:
Collections, Research & Instructional Services (CRIS)
Position Availability: Immediately

Based in UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library, the CRIS department is composed of area and subject specialists who are responsible for building, managing, and providing access to the research collections in all formats in support of humanities and social sciences research and teaching. CRIS librarians serve the faculty and students in these disciplines by providing high-level reference and research services in person, via telephone, and electronically (i.e., e-mail and chat). The department is responsible for staffing the Research Library reference desk. CRIS librarians actively participate in UCLA’s Information Literacy Program, taking the lead in the design and delivery of specialized instruction sessions for upper division and graduate level courses. Subject specialist librarians in CRIS work closely together and in cooperation with librarians from other UCLA Library units to meet faculty and student needs. They serve as liaisons to academic departments and research units in their areas of responsibility.

Position Duties


Reporting to the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) Team Leader in CRIS, the Librarian for Advanced Research & Engagement (LARE) serves as an ambassador for the Library, promoting library spaces, expertise, and services to advanced scholars in the social sciences and humanities. Using the recent renovation of the Research Library as an opportunity to rethink the role of the library on campus, this individual will create programming, staffing, and services to foster an intellectually stimulating environment that nurtures and invigorates the research life cycle. Broadly speaking, the LARE conceptualizes, implements, and promotes projects, programs, and events with faculty and students; develops and coordinates associated library services; and provides strategic leadership in the area of research and consultation services.

More specifically, the LARE plays a central role in developing research services and scholarly programming both for the newly renovated Research Library spaces particularly in the Research Commons and Reading Rooms and throughout the UCLA Library enterprise-wide. The Librarian also plays a central role in highlighting the collections of the UCLA Library and launches programming such as physical and virtual exhibitions, films, seminars, workshops, lectures, and discussion groups to highlight and promote use of existing print and digital collections as well as scholarly tools at UCLA. The LARE works closely with social sciences and humanities faculty and students to address their research and teaching needs, and develop new research projects. In collaboration with subject specialist librarians, the LARE acts as a key Library liaison to the numerous Organized Research Units (ORU) on campus, including the Ethnic Studies research centers, the Center for the Study of Women, the International Institute, and others, working with them on research projects, programming, and exhibitions. The LARE leads outreach efforts to other campus groups that work with graduate students and faculty — such as the Graduate Writing Center, Academic Technology Services, the Center for Digital Humanities, and the dozens of research centers on North Campus — to coordinate their services with those of the Research Library. The incumbent will also be responsible for keeping abreast of new modes of research in the humanities and social sciences, and consequently develop ad hoc methods of engagement that highlight the Library’s role in promoting and furthering this research.

The LARE works with the Head of CRIS and with the SSH Team Leader, as well as with the AUL for Academic Services, the AUL for Collection Management and Scholarly Communication, and the AUL for Digital Initiatives and Information Technology on long-range strategic planning for new initiatives, projects, programming, exhibitions, events, and grants. The incumbent also works closely with the Librarian for Digital Research and Scholarship, the Director of Teaching and Learning Services and Head of the College Library, the Director of Library Communications, the Director of Library Development, the Director of Access Services, the Director of Library Special Collections, and others as needed, to provide ways for scholars to engage with library resources and promote resources, services and programming. The LARE develops capacity and expertise among the librarians and staff within CRIS and other Library departments and units to support work in advanced scholarship through instruction, training, demonstrations, lectures, and workshops. The LARE partners with other campus stakeholders to position the Library as a bridge between researchers in different fields, facilitating interdisciplinary scholarship. The LARE will also develop a for-credit course on advanced research to be taught in the Department of Information Studies or as an undergraduate seminar class and design a research program that will bring social sciences and humanities scholars into the UCLA Library to maximize use of the campus’s research collections.

In the LARE’s capacity as Research and Engagement coordinator, the incumbent will provide vision and strategic leadership as well as coordination of services for the Research Library’s scholarly services. Duties also include developing and implementing, in collaboration with the CRIS Department Leadership Team, a research support service model that will maximize subject specialists’ expertise. The incumbent identifies and implements suitable assessment tools to capture the full breadth of qualitative and quantitative data related to scholarly services; works with other departments within the UCLA Library organization to provide assistance to scholars across a broad range of expertise, in a variety of library settings; and partners with other coordinators within the UCLA Library to develop, manage, and deliver a unified scholarly services profile. As Research and Engagement Coordinator, he or she will oversee activities, services, and staffing in the Research Commons and Reading Room, according to the model established. These duties may include hiring, training, and supervising student Reference Desk Assistants to provide research services. The incumbent may also oversee a training program for research service providers, including librarians and staff.

The incumbent is responsible for the following duties:

  • Leadership of Enterprise-Wide Scholarly Outreach and Collaboration
  • Plays a central role in creating research services and scholarly programming for the newly renovated Research Library spaces–particularly in the Research Commons and Reading Room–and throughout the UCLA Library enterprise-wide.
  • Launches programming– such as physical and virtual exhibitions, films, seminars, workshops, lectures and discussion groups–to highlight and promote use of existing print and digital collections as well as scholarly tools at UCLA. Publicizes research output on campus.
  • Works closely with Social Sciences and Humanities faculty and students to identify and address their research needs, and to develop new research projects. In collaboration with subject specialist librarians, acts as a key Library liaison to the numerous Organized Research Units (ORU) on campus, including the Ethnic Studies research centers, the Center for the Study of Women, and the International Institute. Works with ORUs on research projects, programming, and exhibitions.
  • Leads outreach efforts to other campus groups that work with graduate students and faculty — such as the Graduate Writing Center, Academic Technology Services, the Center for Digital Humanities, and the dozens of research centers on North Campus — to coordinate their services with those of the Research Library.
  • Keeps abreast of new modes of research in the Humanities and Social Sciences and develops ad hoc methods of engagement that highlight the Library’s role in promoting and furthering this research, including demonstrations of emerging scholarly resources and technologies to interested faculty, students, staff, librarians, the research community, and library supporters.
  • Works with the Head of CRIS, the SSH Team Leader, the AUL for Academic Services, the AUL for Collections Management and Scholarly Communication, and the AUL for Digital Initiatives and Information Technology on long-range strategic planning for new initiatives, projects, exhibits, events, and grants.
  • Within the Research Library, works closely with the Librarian for Digital Research and Scholarship, the Director of Teaching and Learning Services and Head of the College Library, the Director of Library Communications, the Director of Library Development, the Director of Access Services, the Director of Library Special Collections, and others as needed, in providing ways for scholars to engage with Library resources and in promoting Library resources, services and programming.
  • Develops additional capacity and expertise among the CRIS librarians and staff and librarians and staff in other Library departments and units to support advanced scholarship through instruction, training, demonstrations, lectures, and workshops
  • Partners with other campus stakeholders to position the Library as a bridge between researchers in different fields to facilitate interdisciplinary scholarship.
  • Develops and teaches a for-credit course on advanced research, in collaboration with the Department of Information Studies or the Fiat Lux undergraduate seminar program.
  • Designs and launches a research program that will bring Social Sciences and Humanities scholars into the UCLA Library to maximize use of the campus’s research collections.

Research Library Academic Research and Engagement Coordination

  • Provides vision and strategic leadership as well as coordination of the Research Library’s scholarly services.
  • In collaboration with the CRIS Department Leadership Team, develops and implements a research support service model that will maximize subject specialists’ expertise.
  • Identifies and implements suitable assessment tools to capture the full breadth of qualitative and quantitative data related to scholarly services.
  • Works with other departments and coordinators within the UCLA Library organization to provide assistance to scholars across a broad range of expertise, in a variety of library settings, and to develop, manage, and deliver a unified scholarly services profile.
  • Hires, trains, and supervises student Reference Desk Assistants to provide research services in the Research Commons and Reading Room.
  • Oversees training program for research service providers including librarians and staff.

Candidates applying by May 31, 2011 will be given first consideration.

For the complete job posting, please visit: http://www2.library.ucla.edu/about/employment.cfm.

and the golden turd award for religious exploitation goes to…

you must read this post. i don’t know whether to laugh or cry…

Special Passover Award For BS (Biblical Stupidity) And the winner is? Drum roll please…. Paula White. Usually, Paula is doing some serious BS with the calendar and the feast days of ancient Israel. Paula has articulated an immense amount of BS pertaining to the calendar. She really likes the calendar… she loves the calendar. When Paula is around a calendar it gets awkward. But her calendar has magic powers for your finances! Paula is the dilettante queen who brought you the Day of Atonement ble … Read More

via Scotteriology

‘gay caveman’ update

Caveman(With thanks to Jack Sasson’s Agade mailing list.)

It turns out that the ‘gay caveman’ reported earlier this month may not be ‘gay’ or a ‘caveman’.

A new report states that some scholars have questioned the findings:

Kristina Killgrove, an anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, wrote on her blog, Bone Girl, that the burial site isn’t necessarily proof of any sexual orientation.

“Just because all the burials you’ve found to date are coded male and female based on grave goods doesn’t mean there aren’t alternate forms you haven’t found and doesn’t mean that the alternate form you have found has a lot of significance,” she wrote.

“If this burial represents a transgendered individual (as well it could), that doesn’t necessarily mean the person had a ‘different sexual orientation’ and certainly doesn’t mean that he would have considered himself (or that his culture would have considered him) ‘homosexual’.”

I seem to remember raising similar questions:

However, Katerina Semradova, another member of the team, conceded that the reverse has also been found: the same team previously unearthed a female from the Mesolithic period who was buried in the fashion of a man. So do these burials represent position in a society (i.e., wealth, status, etc.) or sexual orientation? Could it be a mixup? (It’s unlikely, but possible.) Beyond that, could it have been an intersexual individual (possessing both sexual organs, with a skeleton that researchers would interpret as male, but who was gendered as a female while alive?) And why can’t a straight male work in the domestic realm in antiquity like many straight males do today? Are the scholars playing into ‘ancient’ scholarly stereotypes by assuming that men only worked in non-domestic arenas? And if the researchers are assuming a male/female stereotype, why not conclude that the male was somehow being punished by those who buried him, for instance, for exhibiting what they might consider to be “cowardice,” say, for refusing to fight in a battle? (Or, do the researchers assume that the use of ‘male’ and ‘female’ labels and discrimination/persecution of homosexual individuals is merely a modern phenomenon)? To conclude the individual was gay may be superimposing a lot of modern stereotypes upon an ancient culture.

So, maybe the initial sensational report isn’t all it was cracked up to be?

no, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ (a week before easter)

Simcha holds a nail.

Simcha holds a nail. That must prove it.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.

Everyone’s least favorite fake tv archaeologist “veteran investigator” presenter of ridiculous, sensationalistic trash σκύβαλα, Simcha Jacobovici, is releasing a documentary entitled, “The Nails Of The Cross,” which “investigates” whether the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been discovered. And completely coincidentally, Simcha’s press release machine is revving up a week before Easter. Shockerrrrr! (said with a high pitched voice and dripping with sarcasm.)

The South African Independent Online reports Mr. Jacobovici’s claims in a Reuters story by Ari Rabinovitch:

“What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,” he said in an interview, wearing his trademark traditional knitted cap.

(I love that they mentioned his “trademark knitted cap!)

Jim West broke this story this morning. And the unwitting press is already sopping it up like vinegar in a sponge. The UK’s Telegraph is even running video. (Thank goodness Dan Bahat is there to talk some sense into folks.)

So let me ask: Why is it that Mr. Jacobovici continues to prey on an oft unwitting public so near to the Christian holy days? Is his greed for cash so great that he’s willing to jump to any conclusion just to get on TV? Has he been so far ostracized from anything resembling legitimacy within professional archaeological circles that he feels he has nothing to lose by using his own production company to create ridiculous documentaries about unsubstantiated claims?

The Israel Antiquities Authority knows Mr. Jacobovici is making this up. It said in a statement:

The Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the Jerusalem excavation, said in reaction to the film’s release that it had never been proven beyond doubt that the tomb was the burial place of Caiaphas. It also said that nails are commonly found in tombs.

“There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at its centre, but the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research,” it said.

Crucifixion nail through the ankle bone

Replica of crucifixion nail through the ankle bone of Yehohanan ben Hagkol. It is the only evidence of a nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem ever discovered.

So once again, we have Simcha Jacobovici making unsubstantiated, fantastic claims a week before Easter with the sole purpose of getting people to watch his nonsensical documentary. Keep in mind, anyone who has dug in a Roman period site in Israel has most likely found nails. I have. But to claim that they are the nails of the Crucifixion is wholly irresponsible, even if you did find your nails in a tomb. There has only been evidence of one nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem, a replica of which is in the Israel Museum. It was discovered by my friend and former excavation director Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis of the IAA, and the nail was in an ankle bone in an ossuary clearly inscribed in Hebrew with the name “Yehohanan ben Hagkol.”

So let’s explore Mr. Jacobovici’s actual claim a bit further. According to Reuters:

The film begins by revisiting the burial place hailed by many at the time as the burial place of Caiaphas, who in the New Testament presides over the trial of Jesus.

The grave, along with a number of ossuaries – or bone boxes – was uncovered during construction work on a hillside a few kilometres south of the Old City.

Caiaphas is a major figure in the Gospels, having sent Jesus to the Romans and on to his death, and one of Jacobovici’s assertions is that the high priest did not deserve such a bad reputation.

Two iron nails were found in the tomb [of Caiaphas!] – one on the ground and one actually inside an ossuary – and, according to the film, disappeared shortly after. [emphasis mine]

Jacobovici says that because Caiaphas is so closely linked to the crucifixion, he believes the nails found in his tomb will be shown to belong to Jesus.

‘What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,’ he said.

‘If you look at the whole story, historical, textual, archaeological, they all seem to point at these two nails being involved in a crucifixion,’ he said.’ And since Caiaphas is only associated with Jesus’s crucifixion, you put two and two together and they seem to imply that these are the nails.’

(all bold, red, and italics mine)

“Two and two together”??? Let me get this straight:

  • Simcha claims to have found the tomb of the High Priest Caiaphas, a claim which is uncertain because archaeologists aren’t even sure that the tomb is Caiaphas’ tomb.
  • The excavation found two nails in the tomb, one in an ossuary, and one on the ground.
  • The nails disappeared (i.e., someone took or misplaced them).
  • The nails “magically reappear” in a lab in Tel Aviv 20 years later.
  • Because Caiaphas is mentioned in the story of Jesus, and the nails “disappeared” for a time, they must be the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion?????

How in the name of anything that makes sense does that make any sense? Why weren’t the nails discovered in the Tomb of Jesus that Simcha claimed to have discovered in 2007 as part of a press campaign touting his last laughable documentary, The Jesus Family Tomb, just before Easter of 2007 (which was so heavily criticized by scholars for its inaccuracies and sensational jumps to conclusions that Discovery pulled its subsequent airings)? Or, did Mr. Jacobovici think that the world would forget his last unsubstantiated claim?

Perhaps the words of the principal from the Adam Sandler cult classic, Billy Madison, would serve as an appropriate response:

“Mr. Madison Jacobovici, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

The fact that the Mail Online provides lots of pretty pictures, and Mr. Jacobovici makes a speculative documentary, doesn’t mean the above lack of logic makes any sense.

Finding a nail in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem does not mean you’ve discovered the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s irresponsible, and Simcha should know better by now. This is nothing more than a press campaign designed to stir up controversy to get people to watch a bad documentary.  And Mr. Jacobovici’s latest TV offering is nothing more than a train wreck of reality television. Simcha should probably just break down and get his own fake reality show. (Oh wait, he already does.)

what happens when jim west lectures in the uk

i feel bad for this girl. she was sitting in jim west’s class listening to him lecture, and was overcome by the spirit (or was it something else). fortunately, jim had the last laugh.

call for papers: brown university workshop in digital humanities and religious studies

Brown University Workshop in Digital Humanities and the Study of Religion in Antiquity

Brown University Workshop in Digital Humanities and the Study of Religion in Antiquity

Workshop Call for Papers
February 13-14, 2012
Brown University

The Program in Judaic Studies in collaboration with the Brown University Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship is pleased to announce plans for a two-day workshop devoted to investigating the ways in which the digital humanities has or can change the study of religion in antiquity. The workshop will take place on February 13-14, 2012, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

We invite proposals for papers and presentations that explore the intersection of ancient religion and the digital humanities. We are particularly interested in presentations of projects that have the potential to open up new questions and avenues of research. Can digital tools not only allow us to do our work faster and more thoroughly but also enable entirely new kinds of research? How might different digital data (e.g., textual, geographic, and material culture) be used together most productively? The workshop will concentrate primarily on research rather than directly on pedagogy or scholarly communication. One session will be devoted to “nuts and bolts” issues of funding and starting a digital project.

The focus of the workshop will be on the religions of West Asia and the Mediterranean basin through the early Islamic period. Proposals relating to other regions, however, will also be considered.

Please submit proposals of up to 300 words by October 31, 2011, to Michael Satlow (Michael_Satlow@Brown.edu).

Workshop Themes
While all areas relating to the intersection of the ancient religion and the digital humanities are open, we anticipate focusing our discussions on four themes and encourage submissions that relate directly to them:

  • Corpus Development.
    While this has comprised the bulk of the effort to date, we welcome further discussion and investigation of best practices, challenges, and standards. How should data be structured?
  • Digital Tools.
    What resources that might apply to the analysis of our data already exist? Can they be easily configured to work with the data? We will be demonstrating some projects that might have applications to our data. What tools would we like developed?
  • Interoperability.
    How might data from different corpora operate together? How might data interoperability advance research?
  • Visions.
    In an ideal world, what would we like to see? What do we want to be able to do and what scholarly questions could these new approaches help to solve or open? We welcome presentations of prototypes or even mock-ups.

Workshop Accommodations
Attendance at the workshop is open to all. Travel subsidies may be available for presenters. Discounted accommodations are available at The Saunders Inn at Brown (http://www.brown.edu/Facilities/Saunders_Inn/). All workshop activities will take place within walking distance of the Saunders Inn.

For travel information, see http://www.brown.edu/Administration/Conference_Services/prov_travel.php.

Sponsors
The workshop is generously funded by the Ruth and Joseph Moskow Fund in the Program for Judaic Studies. It is co-sponsored by the Brown University Library as well as the Departments of Religious Studies and Classics and the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.

(via James McGrath via Stoa Consortium via Michael Satlow.)

i am very, very proud of the fact i am moving to iowa

…and here is one more reason why. Listen to Zach Wahls speak to the Iowa House of Representatives during a discussion about House Joint Resolution 6, which seeks ban same-sex marriage in Iowa. The presentation excellent and his argument is sound.

And I shall continue doing my part (here and here and here and here and here and here and here) to combat the discriminatory hatred that continues to be spewed forth by those so-called ‘Christians’ who seek to impose their selectively hypocritical self-righteousness upon others, like this unnamed fundamentalist:

(I love how the opponent is too cowardly to even give his own name, and how those in attendance start walking out.)

Some use religion to condemn and marginalize, others to serve and heal. You tell me which of the above acted like a real ‘neighbor’?

HT: Scott Bailey

if moses had social networking

Call it Google Exodus. Call it Passover in the modern world. What would the Exodus story have looked like had it taken place today? Or what if Moses had social networking? It would have looked something like this:

HT: Bill Schniedewind

czech researchers claim ‘gay caveman’ found

Archaeologists have unearthed 5,000-year-old male remains in Bubenec, Czech Republic, buried in a way normally reserved only for women of the Corded Ware culture in the Copper Age. The skeleton was surrounded by domestic jugs.

Archaeologists have unearthed 5,000-year-old male remains in Bubenec, Czech Republic, buried in a way normally reserved only for women of the Corded Ware culture in the Copper Age. The skeleton was surrounded by domestic jugs. Image by: Europics

No, it’s not a GEICO commercial‘s attempt at humor (or a bomb of short-lived television series), this may actually be legitimate.

Mara Gay reports that Kamila Remisova Vesinova and a team of researchers from the Czech Archeological Society are claiming to have discoverred the remains of an early homosexual man dating to 2900-2500 BCE, just outside of Prague.

During the Copper Age 5,000 years ago, men were traditionally buried facing the west, along with weapons and knives. But archaeologists in the Czech Republic say the skeletal remains of the newly discovered caveman were found facing the east, along with household items like water jugs and pots, funeral rites almost always reserved for women in the region during that time.

“From history and ethnology, we know that people from this period took funeral rites very seriously, so it is highly unlikely that this positioning was a mistake,” archaeologist Kamila Remisova Vesinova told reporters Wednesday, according to London’s Telegraph. “Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual orientation, homosexual or transsexual.”

So, because the 5,000-year old skeleton was buried with its head pointed toward the east rather than west (a position scholars say is reserved for women in the Corded Ware culture), and was surrounded by domestic items rather than by tools and weapons that typically accompany male remains, the researchers say the male was gay.

However, Katerina Semradova, another member of the team, conceded that the reverse has also been found: the same team previously unearthed a female from the Mesolithic period who was buried in the fashion of a man. So do these burials represent position in a society (i.e., wealth, status, etc.) or sexual orientation? Could it be a mixup? (It’s unlikely, but possible.) Beyond that, could it have been an intersexual individual (possessing both sexual organs, with a skeleton that researchers would interpret as male, but who was gendered as a female while alive?) And why can’t a straight male work in the domestic realm in antiquity like many straight males do today? Are the scholars playing into ‘ancient’ scholarly stereotypes by assuming that men only worked in non-domestic arenas? And if the researchers are assuming a male/female stereotype, why not conclude that the male was somehow being punished by those who buried him, for instance, for exhibiting what they might consider to be “cowardice,” say, for refusing to fight in a battle? (Or, do the researchers assume that the use of ‘male’ and ‘female’ labels and discrimination/persecution of homosexual individuals is merely a modern phenomenon)? To conclude the individual was gay may be superimposing a lot of modern stereotypes upon an ancient culture.

Methinks this may be a legit argument in the scholarly arena with serious implications for our understanding of sexuality in antiquity, if only we could keep the Telegraph and Daily Mail from running sensationalistic headlines.

(HT: John Lynch)

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