Male vers. female Stone and Bronze Age burial traditions

First homosexual caveman found

  • what is the symbolism behind male facing west and females east?

You’d have to ask the shaman who buried them.

Anyone else a little bit bothered over the use of “caveman” to describe someone who lived less than 5000 years ago? I always associated the term with older cultures, such as those who drew the cave drawings in france ca. 40000 years ago. I doubt there’s any scientific validity to the term, but is there any sort of guide to how this term is normally used and interpreted?

No. But for most laymen, I think, caveman = Neanderthal, as in the Geiko commercials.

As for the conclusion that the subject of the article was homosexual, well… that’s some pretty sloppy “science” there, or some really sloppy science reporting. I mean, in many cultures the best way to shame a man is to call him a woman. If this guy was buried as a woman, it’s just as likely that he did something the rest of his tribe didn’t like so much.

Why do you interpret “caveman” as a pejorative term? Admittedly, it seems the term may have been used from ignorance. Was the culture being described cave-dwelling? If so, “caveman” lets us know that in only two syllables. If not, it’s not insulting, just a sign that the person using the term doesn’t know how to use the word correctly.

But the person is supposed to be a reporter, and the article itself says the “caveman” was part of a Copper Age culture. Sloppy, sloppy reporting.

AR: While agree with you that the use of “caveman” in the article was misleading, note that the cave art you are referring to can be found much closer to our period than 40k years ago. The art in Lascaux, one of the most famous sites, is only about 17,500 years old.

The popular perception of the term “caveman” describes a low-technology cave-dwelling culture where only but the most basic of stone and wood tools are used. Contrast this to the people in question who were able to mine/refine/cast copper tools to their specifications. Sure, you might call someone who chooses to live in a cave a “caveman”, however I don’t think most people picture “cavemen” to be in possession of this sort of technology.

Thanks for the correction, John Mace. I was sort of grasping at thin air to guess the date of those paintings and probably should have done a quick google for accuracy’s sake. Glad to hear I’m not alone in thinking the use of “caveman” seemed a bit out of place.

How can the archaeologists be certain that this skeleton was a man? Even if some male DNA was preserved, there is still the slight possibility that the person was phenotypically female.

Well, just to doubly clarify, you were pretty close in your original post to some of the older cave paintings, like the very famous ones at Altimira in Spain. Those were closer to 30k years old. It’s just that the exquisite cave art tradition spans tens of thousands of years.

heathen: They probably had the pelvis, at least, but I assume since it was a burial that they had a complete or almost complete skeleton, in which case it’s easy to tell gender.

Yes of course. It is unlikely that anyone know for sure, but for such a widespread practise somebody must have made some educated guesses. Also, even if there are no written records from the period, there might well have been written records from a later period that could spread some light on it.

I also though so, but on the other hand if they wanted to shame him, they probably wouldn’t have provided him with valuable pottery as well.

I can think of a lot of other explanations for the differing burial. Maybe he was from a small sect that disagreed with the parent tribe about which direction was the home of the gods, or whatever the original reason was. Maybe he was buried by the junior assistant shaman in training, who screwed it up. Maybe he wasn’t homosexual, but deviated from his culture’s sexual norms in some other way. Maybe he lost his genitals in a hunting accident, and the distinction in burials isn’t actually “male/female” but “has penis/lacks penis”. Maybe e had a hormonal condition that gave em male-like bone structure, but female fleshy parts, and the tribe (not having forensic osseology) really thought e was a woman. Maybe he had an odd sense of humor, and asked his friends to bury him that way as a joke.

Differences between male and female skeletons.

Rather a broad statement for someone deriding sloppy reporting.

I bet the tribe bureaucrat chiseled the wrong box on the death tablet, and since it was late on a Friday the Burier’s union decided they didn’t want to make a fuss about it.

“In general,” “most,” “typically,” “usually,” “tends to be”… seems like there’s room for skepticism, unless the variation specific to the pelvis really never overlaps at all between the sexes.

While in some cultures, such as ours, male homosexuality is associated with femininity, there have been many cultures were male homosexuals were regarded as masculine, even to the point of being considered more masculine than straight men (because they were so manly, they didn’t even want to have sex with a woman!).

Even if we are certain that this individual is a male (I’d have to see the original study before I can weigh in on it) and had the phenotype appearance of a man, there are countless reasons that this individual could have been buried in the manner of the opposite sex. Assuming that it has to do with homosexuality is a huge leap that has no scientific basis behind it.

In some cultures, only those of certain levels are buried. If this is one of these cultures, it’s possible that the difference in orientation has to do more with a life ritual that is often split between males and females, but may not necessarily be defined by being male or female. For example, supposing that all the female bodies are of great shamans (who tended to be women), and all the male bodies are all great hunters (who tended to be men), then this male could have been a great shaman. He could have inherited the position from his mother when she failed to produce any daughters.

Another reason might be this: in an African culture, it is so important to have a son due to inheritance laws, that a daughter in a family of just daughters will ‘become’ a man. She will take a wife and all children born to the wife (who has sex with men, obviously) will belong to the male line of her family. This woman is not intersexed, transsexual, or homosexual, but she would be buried in a male grave. Perhaps the reverse of that would happen here.

Those are just two examples.

Women give birth, so they are symbolically buried facing the rising sun, whereas men kill people in war, so they face the setting sun.

You just made that up didn’t you? :slight_smile:

Some parts of archaeology are scientific but a lot of it actually relies on interpreting evidence. Dating an artifact whether through radiocarbon dating or good old fashioned stratigraphy is scientific. Interpreting what the site means is decidedly unscientific but that’s what archeologist do, they interpret what they find.