'Gay caveman neither gay nor a caveman'
Archaeologists and anthropologists are urging those in the media who have dubbed the 5,000-year-old skeleton a 'gay caveman' not to rush to any Neanderthal-like assumptions.world Updated: Apr 10, 2011 19:13 IST
The discovery of a 5,000-year-old skeleton that was buried in a peculiar way has researchers suggesting the prehistoric man found outside modern-day Prague could have been gay or transsexual.
But archaeologists and anthropologists are urging those in the media who have dubbed the skeleton a 'gay caveman' not to rush to any Neanderthal-like assumptions, reports Montreal Gazette.
Kamila Remisova Vesinova, a researcher with the Czech Archaeological Society, has said the male skeleton is believed to have been a member of the Corded Ware culture, which proliferated in northern Europe between 2500 and 2900 BCE.
Corded Ware societies were known for burying men with their heads facing west and with weapons of war, typically a battle-axe.
But this find was positioned facing east and surrounded by domestic items, such as the pots from which the culture takes its name - the same way women from the society were buried.
The archeologists have speculated that this could mean these are the remains of a homosexual or transsexual man.
"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," Vesinova told a news conference announcing the discovery.
"So we think, based on data, that it could be a member of a so-called third gender, which were people either with different sexual orientation or transsexuals or just people who identified themselves differently from the rest of the society."
British newspapers jumped on Vesinova's comments as proof that archaeologists had found a "gay caveman," despite the fact the term "cavemen" typically refers to Neanderthals who lived 30,000 years ago.
Vesinova's team uncovered a single-room building at the dig site just outside of Prague, suggesting the society had clearly moved beyond living in caves.
As for suggestion the man was gay, experts say that isn't set in stone either.
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'."
Rosemary Joyce, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who focuses on sex and gender in archeology, said there simply isn't enough proof to conclude anything about the skeleton's sexual identity.
With no other burial sites having been attributed to third-sex individuals from that society, "in cultural milieu where burials normally fall into two groups based on position and grave goods, they have uncovered an anomalous burial."
Instead, Joyce suggested that the true sign of a burial site for a third-sexed individual probably wouldn't simply be a conflation of those for men and women, but rather a third format distinguishable from men and women altogether.