Friday, April 8, 2011

Anthropologist says "gay caveman" could actually be shaman or transgender

The interwebs have been lit up over the last 24 hours with news reported in British tabloids of the discovery of human remains that have been dubbed a 5,000-year-old "Gay Caveman" at an archeological site in the Czech Republic. The gay claims are being made because of the positioning of what is assumed to be a male body. MSNBC reports:
The skeleton, which dates back to about 2,500 to 2,800 B.C., was found in the outskirts of Prague. The culture the man belonged to (known as the Corded Ware culture for their pottery decorated with the impressions of twisted cord) was very finicky about grave rituals, reported Iranian news network Press TV, which visited the excavation site. According to the Czech news website, Corded Ware males were usually buried on their right sides with their heads facing east. This man, however, was buried on his left with his head facing west — a traditionally female position.
"We found one very specific grave of a man lying in the position of a woman, without gender specific grave goods, neither jewelry or weapons," lead archaeologist Kamila Remisova Vesinova of the Czech Archaeological Society told Press TV. 
Vesinova and her colleagues told reporters that the man may have belonged to a "third gender." This designation is for people who may be viewed as neither male nor female or some combination of both. In some cases, third-gender individuals are thought to be able to switch between male and female depending on circumstance. Modern examples include the Hijras of India and the Fa'afafine of Polynesia.
Not so fast, says anthropologist Kristina Killgrove, of Chapel Hill, NC, who blogs at Bone Girl. Killgrove writes, "Seriously, news media. I don't have time to keep creating thoughtful blog posts to counteract your insane sensationalism. It's like the entire first week of this month is April Fool's."

Killgrove takes issue with the tag "gay caveman", saying "Differently gendered burial way back in the third millennium BC! Hold it - "caveman" is generally applied to either Neandertals or Cro-Magnon (the first early modern Homo sapiens). And both of those date to about 35,000 years ago. So, no, this person wasn't a caveman."

Killgroves adds, "Well, I can't say I'm convinced from just this brief report that this was a third-gendered individual. 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. But this is not my geographical or temporal specialty, so I'll buy that all of the evidence suggests something other than a shaman (thanks, Telegraph, for defining a shaman as a "latter-day witch doctor;" real helpful). So, neat, a possible third-gendered or transgendered individual."

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