'Gay Caveman' Is Sensationalized Story, Say Professors

04/11/2011 20:45


Professors are questioning recent media reports that say Czech archaeologists unearthed a "gay caveman" last week, stating that the story was taken out of context.

John Hawkins, a paleoanthropologist and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, criticized the repeated headline of “gay caveman” in various media outlets and argued that the skeleton that was found was neither – gay nor caveman.

In his blog, he said that while the burial position of the prehistoric skeleton reported last Tuesday was unusual, it is virtually impossible to tell if the person was a homosexual by examining the skeleton.

Kristina Killgrove, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, also questioned the logic of even applying the modern term “gay” to describe the ancient remains in her blog, Bone Girl.

The subject of Hawkins’ and Killgrove’s diatribes is the reported discovery of a male during an archaeological dig in the Czech Republic. Archaeologist Katerina Semradova told reporters that her team had possibly found “one of the earliest cases of what could be described as a 'transsexual' or 'third gender grave'” buried in a Prague suburb. She was referring to the skeleton of a man dating back to 2800-2500 B.C. buried on his side.

The lead archaeologist, Kamila Remisova Vesinova, said history and ethnology show that during that time period men were typically buried facing the east and were surrounded by tools and weapons. Women were typical buried in the other direction with jewelry, jugs and pets. The man found last week was buried in the same direction as a woman and surrounded by two jars.

“We know that people from this period took funeral rites very seriously so it is highly unlikely that this positioning was a mistake," said Vesinova, as reported by Time magazine.

Initial reports of the so-called “gay caveman” led to mocking reports like of Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams who jokingly wrote, “What, you ask, led to such an intimate conclusion about a 5,000-year-old who was ‘outed by the way he was buried?’ Did he have an especially neat cave? Was he laid to rest with a rainbow flag and some military discharge papers?”

Scientists immediately found flaws in the initial media reports. Killgrove said that the skeleton was not that of a caveman. "[The term] ‘caveman’ is generally applied to either Neanderthals or Cro-Magnon, the first early modern Homo sapiens,” wrote Killgrove. “Both of those date to about 35,000 years ago” – much older than the skeleton reported found last week.”

Killgrove also noted how the Czech archaeologists misused the sexual terms transgender, homosexual and third sex when referring to the remains. “It's important to note that biological sex, gender, and the choice of sexual partner are not interchangeable terms,” she clarified.

She continued, “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.'"

Both Hawkins and Killgrove also questioned whether or not the skeleton was that of a man. "I haven't seen any evidence that really convinces me that the skeleton is male," said Hawkins. "It could be, but the photo is not convincing on that point, and I have not seen any claim of DNA testing."

Stephanie Samuel
Christian Post Reporter

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