Topic ID #19145 - posted 5/9/2012 1:52 PM

"The only gay in a Stone Age Village"


I came across this article: 

And was firstly surprised by its brash title.  Having recently studied the role of the Media in Archaeology I do understand that catchy titles and those with the "shock factor" are necessary in order to engage the public initially in that archaeological news.  But to me this title was too far and put a bad taste in my mouth.

The article itself is very interesting; a personal interest of mine is the archaeology of burials and the interpretation of this male being buried in a female pattern as possibly representing homosexuality in this community was incredibly intriguing.

What is your opinion? Do you believe the Media has pushed social correctness a bit with the title?

Post ID#19550 - replied 5/9/2012 2:49 PM


As you point out, out of the ordinary headlines are increasingly popular to attract attention, along with claims of new theories that may or may not be supported by the evidence. It's understandable I guess, but still bothersome.

Two thoughts though...I could think of a few alternative explanations (that the individual may have been handicapped in some way, and not capable of fullfilling a "normal" gender role, or that it may actually be a misidentified female); also that if there was only one homosexual in the village it would be somewhat of an unrequited sexual preference.

Post ID#19551 - replied 5/9/2012 9:52 PM


Aside from the wild speculation and bad reporting, I am sure there could be plenty of other explanations.  They may not have found enough graves to show a purely gender based difference in burials among all Neolithic groups, and grave goods could be associated with social/ trade roles rather than whether the individual did or didn't weild a weapon ( as they are obviously assuming a gay individual would be to frail to serve as a warrior...).

And, just because an individual is associated with a female role (transgender) in life doesn't mean they are necessarily homosexual, unless I have missed some causal link.

Not sure about the picture of the metal implement from this Neolithic site...

Seems like a deplorable stab at putting someones work in the limelight.

My guess is that it may have been a mentally handicapped individual that may have stayed very close to his mother and was unable to fufil the male rights of passage.  However this is also just as speculative with the very limited information given (I didn't see any dates either).

Post ID#19556 - replied 5/10/2012 2:25 AM

Jennifer Palmer

Kristina Killgrove wrote about this story on her blog (which I strongly recommend checking out, BTW - lots of good stuff).

Interesting interpretations. My guess is that the headline was written to pull in the largest number of readers as possible.

Post ID#19591 - replied 5/15/2012 1:26 PM


Nothing quite like projecting the present into the past....

Post ID#19646 - replied 6/22/2012 10:39 AM


Just by the way, I believe it is making a play on Little Britain's The Only Gay in the Village character. The title could have been done with a bit more tact considering its broad audience & academic nature, but I guess the author thought it was more cute than harsh...Anyway, that's probably where it came from :)

Post ID#19648 - replied 6/22/2012 1:35 PM


It does seem like it might have been a pop culture reference. I wasn't familiar with Little Britain, but I did just watch a couple of sketches with the Daffyd Thomas character. It made me wonder if the author was going to suggest that the individual may not have been as alone in the village as was being suggested.

Then, I got to the first sentence of the article, and that possibility just faded away. I certainly don't think they've "uncovered the first homosexual caveman." Even if the individual was gay, he may not have been alone in the village. Perhaps he made some different choices about where he fit in the division of labor, which was dealt with separately from gender roles, and with reproductive access dealt with separately from both.

In any case, it seems like it's far more sensational for the modern reader than it was for the residents of those long houses. Other than rotating the orientation to achieve a left side, flexed burial that faced west, there doesn't seem to be anything unusual about the inhumation or its proximity to others. Maybe facing west is for biological males, and the left side reflects working in the domestic sphere. I don't think that it "does not add up to Corded Ware cultural norms," although it might be providing an emic perspective into how those norms were applied.

Much as diginit suggested, another thought was that some reason that disappeared with the soft tissue (without leaving indicators on the skeletal remains) may have made the individual unsuitable for the "warrior" role.

Post ID#19651 - replied 6/23/2012 4:13 PM


It should probably be noted that this article was published in the Daily News. Isn't that one of Rupert Murdoch tabloids? Hardly worth the attention its already been given.


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