Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 8, 2011

“Queer” “Cavemen” (!?!)

So, I’ve had articles on the following forwarded to me by various people and on various e-mail lists and such to which I subscribe…I had to weigh in on the issue, therefore.

It appears that because of an unusual burial observed in the Czech Republic, which appears to be a male skeleton but it is buried in the manner that most females are, lots of people are starting to jump to various conclusions. Some have said it’s a gay caveman–ignoring the fact that the time period from which this comes is pre-Bronze Age, not the Paleolithic from which “true” “cavemen” come. However, other articles have been more nuanced in their reaction, including this one.

Lest I need to go over things I’ve said during the Megalensia the last few days in greater detail once again, whether to these various journalists and archaeologists or others, let me just say again briefly: gender variance and homosexuality are not the same thing. It’s bad enough that some queer (mostly gay and lesbian) activists and spiritual practitioners get this wrong on a regular basis; why can’t some of the researchers and academics who are attempting to deal with these matters also inform themselves on these issues better before shooting their mouths off…and, why can’t the journalists covering them do a better job either?

Let me be clear on something else: I’m not saying that there have never been gender-variant people in the history of humanity before historic times, nor am I saying that there have not been homoerotically inclined people in human history before historic times, nor am I saying that it is impossible for someone to be both gender-variant and homoerotically inclined…but, in the latter case, that’s where things start to fall down. “Homoeroticism” as a concept is dependent on our modern classifications of gender, and the comparison of the desiring partner to the gender of their desired partner is the basis for the evaluation of “homoerotic.” But, what if that person is gender-variant by their own society’s standards, irrespective of their “actual” or physical/genetic gender? And, I’m not only talking about transgender or transsexual people here…I’ve often joked that as a metagendered person, it’s difficult for me to tell which gender is supposed to be the “opposite sex,” because both men and women seem rather opposite (or at very least different) to what I happen to be and to be most comfortable with. So, by some sort of strange logic in which “heterosexual” is someone who has relationships with the opposite gender, does that mean that despite the fact that I’m in no way “straight-acting” and many of my interests and aesthetics are easily characterized as “gay,” that nonetheless I could be considered “heterosexual” no matter who it is I happen to be sleeping with because I’m of a different gender than any of them (unless I happen to be dating someone who is also metagender, whereupon I’d be “homosexual”)? You see, it’s a very tricky thing…particularly when we have no further information on gender roles in a given society.

I also think it’s pretty awful that some of the reporters covering this have called this individual a “caveman,” since these burials are around 4,000-5,000 years old. This newest instance is by no means the “first” such possibly gender-variant or homoerotically inclined “caveman,” by any stretch of the imagination–the burial tableau at Dolní Vestonice, covered here by Connell O’Donovan, presents a situation that is, if nothing else, intriguing that is tens of thousands of years older. Again, while we may not be able to say anything for certain about all of this, given that we don’t know if symbolic matters had the same meanings over such huge stretches of time in comparison to later periods, nonetheless these types of unusual–or, dare I say it, queer–matters in archaeology are certainly deserving of greater study.

So, “gay” and “caveman” are both a definite NO in this case; but gender-variant Bronze Age Corded Wear person? Possibly…?!?


  1. As an archaeologist I must say that there actually is a branch of archaeology called “queer archaeology” that focuses on this very issue of identifying and trying to understand ancient gender roles and forms, and how ancient societies viewed them.

    • And while I think that’s an excellent and necessary thing, at the same time, I’m worried that some of the people speaking about these things haven’t been well enough trained in that particular discipline to make clear arguments or to give useful excurses on the matter…

  2. I’ve read enough raunchy Fred and Barney fanfic over the years to know that cavemen got up to all sorts of queer shenanigans. Nice to see archaeological proof of it!

  3. Oops! That was me. I annoyingly left the other account logged in.

  4. […] guy Finnchuill posted about the “Copper Age Queer” burial (awesome title!) I mentioned recently as well. His reflections on the matter are quite excellent, and far more in-depth historically, and […]

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