Earlier this week, archaeologists revealed that they found a Stone-Age man from a culture with gender-specific burial practices in a female position, leading dozens of media outlets to celebrate the discovery of a "gay caveman." Now researchers are pointing out the obvious: Just because the guy has an unusual grave doesn't mean he was sexually attracted to men.
LiveScience reports that the skeleton, which was found near Prague, dates back to 2,500 or 2,800 B.C. It's part of the Corded Ware culture, which usually buried males on their right sides with their heads facing east. This man was buried in the opposite position, which was reserved for females, and he wasn't surrounded by gender-specific items, such as jewelry or weapons, like the other remains.
While many in the media lept to the conclusion that this was evidence of homosexuality in the prehistoric era, the researchers say there isn't enough evidence to say that. Anthropologist Kristina Killgrove explained on her blog Bone Girl:
"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.'"
The man could have belonged to a "third gender," a term used by the anthropologists to describe a variety of gender identities in different cultures that are outside of the male/female binary. It's also possible that he was some kind of shaman or witch doctor, as they were often buried in unusual ways.
In addition to not being homosexual, there's a good chance the guy wasn't even a "caveman." University of Wisconsin paleoanthropologist John Hawks says, "Corded-Ware burials are not 'caveman' in age. We're talking about pre-Bronze Age farmers." Plus, the remains may not be male. "I haven't seen any evidence that really convinces me that the skeleton is male," he said. "It could be, but the photo is not convincing on that point, and I have not seen any claim of DNA testing."
It's likely we'll never really know why he was buried that way, or even how his culture viewed gender and sexuality, but in the end even the "gay caveman" got to enjoy 15 minutes of fame. Though, it's not like it makes much difference to him (or her) anyway.