Just Like a Woman

Puzzle of 5,000 Year Burial Site
Forces Scientists to Think Anew

For years, archaeologists have believed that our male ancestors were traditionally buried lying on their right side with the head pointing towards the west. And women were laid to rest on their left side, head facing east.
Now a recent discovery of a burial site in the Czech Republic is challenging such assumptions. The skeleton of a late Stone Age man, said to date back to between 2900 and 2500 BCE, has been unearthed laying on his left side with his head facing west.
Another puzzling clue is the collection of objects that were found with his body. According to data established through years of research, men tended to be interred with weapons, hammers and flint knives, plus food and something to drink, lest no one starve even on their way to the other side.
Following the same line of thought, necklaces made from teeth, pets, and copper earrings, as well as domestic jugs and an egg-shaped pot placed near the feet would accompany women on their own final journey. But that’s where the man found in contemporary Czech soil contradicts all of that: for buried with him there were household jugs but no weapons. Take that, ancient theoretical anthropology.
But if there’s one thing we can always count on the scientific method is its consistency and the archeologists responsible for this discovery happen to follow the same creed. So, knowing the importance attached to funerals during the period, known as the Corded Ware era because of the pottery it produced, they are not about to all of a sudden think his body position and the possessions found are some kind of mistake or coincidence.
So, while they discussed possible theories to explain the findings, anyone could rest assured that, when it comes to the scientific method, nothing is rushed, jumped at, established, without extensive and sometimes lengthy research. Everything is thoroughly proven.
That was, until someone in the back of the room may have shouted, “It’s the burial site of a gay caveman!”
Then all hell must have broken loose. The expectation of sobriety and dispassionate analysis got immediately buried along with the hope for a cool, calm, collected review of the discovery and its implications. That may have become impossible with the quasi-tabloid atmosphere that settled in the place.
Not that there isn’t some evidence pointing on that direction, as speculative as it might seem. There is the precedent of an earlier case dating from the Mesolithic period, where a female warrior was buried as a man. And Siberian shamans, or witch doctors, are known to have been buried this way but with richer funeral accessories appropriate to their elevated position in society.
Still others insisted that more research needed to be done before jumping to such conclusion. Their voices were probably, well, buried by the noisy excitement generated by the flashier possibility.
Since the egg-shaped container was also found at the feet of the skeleton, most agreed that this was the final resting place of a man with a different sexual orientation, homosexual or transvestite, which is not consistent with what’s been known about the traditional Corded Ware cultural norms.
It may as well be. Time will tell. But it’s always healthy to take into consideration the scale of time that separates us and our contemporary ideas about sexuality and ritual from that of 50 centuries ago. And that, let’s be perfectly practical about such matters here, scientific research does not come cheap and any publicity boost helps.
So be it, we won’t be the one dissonant note in this samba. After all, we probably wouldn’t be reading about yet another ancient burial site today hadn’t been for that shout coming from the back of the room. And who knows? following the same line of thought, just to be consistent, there certainly much more that we don’t know yet to be discovered, say, in the next 50 centuries, right?


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