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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5 Responses

  1. Is there not a difference between being gay, and being socially/culturally identified as woman, when one is biologically male?

    Which social anthropologists have had the chance to examine this data? I suspect there are more explanations beside the rather sensational and newsworthy claim of “gay” that should be explored.

  2. Four words, Doc:

    NEWS OF THE WEIRD.

  3. [...] seem to remember raising similar questions: However, Katerina Semradova, another member of the team, conceded that the reverse has also been [...]

  4. [...] Robert Cargill, Live Science, Montreal Gazette, Bone Girl (contiene i link ad altri interessanti articoli che [...]

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