When agendas trump logic

One of the worst pieces of reasoning I have seen in a while…. almost as bad as that recent stupid piece in TIME about the new translation .

Get a load of this, from the Telegraph.

First homosexual caveman found

Archaeologists have unearthed the 5,000-year-old remains of what they believe may have been the world’s oldest known gay caveman.

The male body – said to date back to between 2900-2500BC – was discovered buried in a way normally reserved only for women of the Corded Ware culture in the Copper Age.

The skeleton was found in a Prague suburb in the Czech Republic with its head pointing eastwards and surrounded by domestic jugs, rituals only previously seen in female graves.

“From history and ethnology, we know that people from this period took funeral rites very seriously so it is highly unlikely that this positioning was a mistake,” said lead archaeologist Kamila Remisova Vesinova.

“Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual orientation, homosexual or transsexual,” she added.

[...]

Good grief.

A male body is found in a grave pit with females, and doesn’t have the usual man stuff around him, therefore he has to have been a homosexual.   The noble enlightened primitives respected Glak’s wishes and buried him as a female.

There’s good archeology for ya.

I have other explanations.

  • There were lots of deaths at the time and Glak’s tribe did, in fact, make a mistake.
  • They were hiding the true location of Glak’s burial for some reason.
  • They hated Glak and wanted to humiliate him in the eternal Mammoth Hunting Ground.

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46 Responses to When agendas trump logic

  1. Imrahil says:

    Proves the literal actuality of G. K. Chestertons passages about caveman neomythology in The Everlasting Man.

    “The pictures do not prove even that the cave-men lived in caves, any more than the discovery of a wine-cellar in Balham (long after that suburb had been destroyed by human or divine wrath) would prove that the Victorian middle classes lived entirely underground. The cave might have had a special purpose like the cellar; it might have been [...]“.

  2. JKnott says:

    No surprise. When Jesus came “in the fullness of time” there were all sorts of diseases, perversions and possessions. He cured many.
    But perhaps Father’s third idea is close: ?”They hated Glak and wanted to humiliate him in the eternal Mammoth Hunting Ground.”
    They were all “homophobes”. Let’s hope the radicals don’t catch on.
    Right Father, what are we coming to?

  3. JKnott says:

    Imrahil:
    Yes…. I love that book. One of my favorites.

  4. Random Walk says:

    LOL! Isn’t extrapolation fun?

    I find it pretty funny that the automatic assumption almost always tends toward the most Politically Correct supposition – as if ancient culture and mores were automatically just a cruder version of what all ‘correct-thinking’ folks today think and do.

    Some other suppositions:

    * Mr Glak could have been a ‘shaman’ or ‘healer’ (or some forerunner of a doctor), and all those jugs/items likely contained the herbs and potions he used in daily life. Since such a person would likely hang back in camp and wait for the hunters to return (to heal cuts, set broken bones, etc), it would make sense to bury the guy next to everyone else who hung around camp more often than not.

    * Maybe Mr. Glak was (for lack of a more polite description) mentally incapacitated, was therefore unfit for the rigor and skill required to go hunting, so they kept the guy back at camp, where he took on the role of doing simple domestic stuff.

    Long story short, as you’ve said, one can make up any number of suggestions and reasons. I have one more, come to think of it… I suspect that the archaeologists would likely find a lot more funding for (and attention to) their work once a little controversy started, no? While more mundane explanations would be boring to people not watching a documentary channel, the one they cooked up did find its way at least this far online, and will likely grow some legs over time. :)

  5. Titus says:

    Interesting that “huh, maybe we just don’t know what the dickens this particular bronze-age village was up to” doesn’t fit into anyone’s analysis. The sort of hubris that must be required to assert that one knows so much about a dead civilization—and one has to first make the tenuous conclusion that the grave is even the same society one knows anything about to begin with—that one can make such extrapolations from some pots is simply staggering.

  6. Titus says:

    Of course, it’s also possible, if we accept all of the anthropologist’s absurd premises about how it’s possible to know exactly what the bronze-aged Bohemians thought by the way they arranged pots, that Glak suffered from some form of physiological androgyny: people afflicted with such genetic conditions exist, of course, and display, shall we say, “mixed characteristics” that could make life difficult for archeologists.

  7. Andy Lucy says:

    I took my BA in history and archaeology. While I may have forgotten much about the technical aspects of archaeology, there is one thing I do remember… regarding prehistoric sites, we may know the WHAT, but we will seldom know the WHY. We know ol’ Glak was buried with females… but we do not know why. Any statements as to why are pure guesswork, and usually betray the ideological bent of the one making the guess. Maybe… just maybe… Glak was buried with his harem, he having been one incredibly attractive and cavemanly caveman, and, having such a large harem, he had few worldly goods with which to be buried, but had a large coterie of escorting females to attend to his every ethereal need in the hereafter. See? That guess reveals my snarky ideology.

  8. SonofMonica says:

    So when his remains were found, they were surrounded by women and jugs…. Seems most likely that he drank himself to death.

  9. APX says:

    The skeleton was found in a Prague suburb in the Czech Republic with its head pointing eastwards and surrounded by domestic jugs, rituals only previously seen in female graves.

    This is nothing more than stereotyping. It’s like saying because flight attendents were previously all women, male flight attendents must be homosexuals. Wow, that’s some great logic there.

  10. Cantor says:

    And for insult to injury the gravestone probably said “Glaka”

  11. Bryan Boyle says:

    Agenda trumping logic? Who’d a thunk, Father?

    A noted propagandist from the last century stated that people will believe a big lie, repeated often enough, before small lies. So…if you keep repeating the same mantra over and over to support your agenda that a perversion is actually normal…pretty soon you dull the senses (or lull the opposition) into questioning what you know (and can know by natural reason) is wrong into, if not active receptivity, at least passive non-resistance.

    That a specious theory stated as settled fact is developed from preconceived agenda is nothing new. Yours are probably more valid…

  12. jasoncpetty says:

    Or maybe it was a supreme honor to be buried as a woman in a goddess-worshipping society, this honor being owed to Glak as the greatest jug musician of all time, who went to his reward surrounded by his best instruments?

  13. Legisperitus says:

    Yes indeed, the “noble enlightened primitives.”

    Another case of the Noble Savage trotted out to showcase the latest faddish sociopolitical agenda projected onto the ever-accommodating “state of nature” back before it got all screwed up by civilization and Christianity. This shadow-puppet theatre has been going on since the 17th century.

  14. Bthompson says:

    Maybe the poor fellow was deformed and thus mistaken for a woman.

  15. Ezra says:

    I find myself frequently confused in this sophisticated age. Am I to understand from this report that associating homosexuality with effeminacy is only offensive when St Paul and religious conservatives do it? Does it become OK if it serves the wider cause of discovering evidence of Gayness Affirmed throughout time and space?

  16. Sword40 says:

    Maybe the old boy just liked women. Maybe they were in a rush to get his body in the ground.

    The Intelligencia just boggle my mind on this one. All WAG’s.

  17. Mike says:

    Does anyone remember that fairly dark comedy, “Heathers”. Three Heathers in high school are at war with each other; one Heather accidentally kills the other. Then this Heather–the killer–has her boyfriend kill two high school jocks because…well, not worth stating, and she and the boyfriend make the murder scene look like a double gay suicide. The clinching piece of evidence: They plant bottles of mineral water by the bodies. One of the sheriff deputies pulls a bottle out of a bag, and says, “yup, no doubt about it.”

    I’m thinking we have something similar with this breaking news.

  18. terryprest says:

    Other explanations?

    Glak was happily married with wife (wives ?) and daughters. He was buried with them in accordance with his wishes

    Glak died first and was buried in the way men normally were buried. His surviving wife or wives want to be buried with him. After their deaths, his grave was opened to bury her or them. They moved his body and took the precious flints and axes as they had better uses for them. The grave was then infilled.

    Glak was a Hermaphrodite or Intersex

  19. albinus1 says:

    I’m a classicist, so I know all about the flights of fancy to which scholars can succumb. Fortunately I had a professor of ancient history in graduate school who taught me a very valuable lesson: a serious, ethical scholar is willing to say “I don’t know” or “the evidence is insufficient to allow us to make a conclusion” or, at least, “this is a provisional conjecture based on the evidence as it currently stands.” Of course, he didn’t publish as much as scholars who are willing to pull things wholesale out of the air.

    For a wonderful parody of how scholars can let their imaginations lead them off the deep end, I highly recommend David Macauley’s The Motel of the Mysteries. [That was a great laugh! Thanks for the reminder.]

    ***
    How about, Glak and friends were pranksters? ;-)

    From A MAD Look at History: “5000 BC: British engineers at Stonehenge congratulate themselves for having arranged the stones in a sufficiently meaningless pattern to confuse the heck out of archaeologists for centuries.” (My apologies for quoting from memory.)

    Some years ago a friend of mine was crossing the bridge over the Corinth canal (through the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece), when a member of his group found that he happened to have a Boston T transit token in his pocket. He tossed it into the canal and said, “That’ll confuse archaeologists in 1500 years!”

    [For Motel of the Mysteries, based on the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii.]

    Motel of the Mysteries

  20. Samuriadoc says:

    When I was in grad school I came up with an idea one day and my thesis adviser told me that speculation without data is like a mistress, keep it private, and never take it out into public.

  21. LarryPGH says:

    The article in the Telegraph is somewhat confusing — it says that “men were traditionally buried lying on their right side with their heads pointing towards the west, and women on their left sides with their heads pointing towards the east.” But, it says two things about the man’s orientation (so to speak): “(t)he skeleton was found in a Prague suburb in the Czech Republic with its head pointing eastwards” and “interred on its left side with the head facing the West.”

    So, which is it? East or west? It would seem an important fact, since this appears to be a major piece of evidence leading to the archeologist’s conclusions.

    Yet, in the Daily Mail, it is claimed that “men were traditionally buried lying on their right side with the head pointing towards the west; women on their left side with the head facing east. In this case, the man was on his left side with his head facing west.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1374060/Gay-caveman-5-000-year-old-male-skeleton-outed-way-buried.html).

    So, someone appears to be confused. Either both the orientation of the body and the items in the grave indicate an unusual circumstance, or the orientation of the body is ambiguous (lying on a side typically used for women, while pointing in a direction reserved for men).

    In either case, viewing archeology through 21st century lenses seems to have colored the scientist’s work just a tad… or, for the more cynical among us, perhaps it’s just possible that she realized that her discovery would get far more press attention with a dubious claim of finding a “homosexual caveman”.

  22. ejcmartin says:

    This additional quote from the related article in the “National Post” – ““Why are people so interested in showing that sexual orientation has a biological basis? Because if it has a biological basis then it can’t be changed, and therefore to discriminate against people for something that they can’t change is wrong,” said Margaret Schneider, an expert on sexual orientation, gender, and gender variance at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto” That says a lot.

  23. chironomo says:

    Perhaps one of the women buried nearby was the dear man’s spouse, and he desired to be buried nearby. There could be a million reasons why this man would be buried in such a way. And if he were gay, wouldn’t there be TWO such men buried there? I mean, surely it took two to tango even to the sound of hand drums… which leads one to wonder how the other cave men would know he was gay if he was the only one.

    And perhaps our erstwhile archaeologist didn’t take into account that bodies can be moved after they are entombed. I mean… it was a long time ago and things happen.

  24. Centristian says:

    “Does anyone remember that fairly dark comedy, ‘Heathers’…[yes!]…The clinching piece of evidence: They plant bottles of mineral water by the bodies. One of the sheriff deputies pulls a bottle out of a bag, and says, ‘yup, no doubt about it.’”

    Brilliant. Great analogy, Mike. Too funny.

    Who knows? Perhaps Gl’aque did prefer Bambam to Pebbles, and this is what they did to him for making his preferences known. But insinuating a prehistoric male’s homosexuality based upon the fact that this single corpse was buried, as far as these archaeologists are able to tell, in the manner of a woman, is an insinuation that I can only imagine will not endear them to most gay men.

    What does such a speculation say to contemporary homosexual men, after all, except that as far back as in prehistoric times, homosexuals were not accepted as equal in manhood to their heterosexual brothers? They were regarded as women, treated as women, ultimately buried as women. They were “sissies” and were put with the girls instead of with the boys…for eternity. Somehow, I don’t see homosexuals (male or female ones) subscribing to this particular speculation. If there is a gay agenda, this particular speculation would hardly seem to support it.

    Of course, this archaeological find probably can’t reveal as much as the archaeologist’s speculation would like it to, but the archaeologist does reveal, by her position, that she does, herself, equate homosexual men with effeminacy and womanliness and strictly female attributes. I think, therefore, that gay men would most likely regard Dr. Vesinova as a bit of a Neanderthal, herself.

  25. BLB Oregon says:

    They’re saying only shamans got “third method” burials in ancient times? If the prevalence of homosexuality has the high prevelance in nature that is widely reported, it seems to me a little odd that this is such a rare gravesite. If homosexuals were buried differently, there ought to have been far more of these “mixed message” gravesites found. Furthermore, if a female is found buried as the kings are buried, it is presumed that she was a regnal queen, not that she was lesbian. It seems it ought to be concluded that since this is a very unusual individual, mere homosexuality cannot explain the unusual circumstances of his interment. Since he was buried “surrounded by domestic jugs”, maybe he was really the first known Iron Chef.

    I also agree with Fr. Z on this: I don’t know why a scholar would assume that treating a male as a garden-variety female during burial would have been any particular honor to the male. Like it or not, males have not worshipped the position of rank-and-file females, but only certain “queen bees”, if any. Excepting the burials reserved for royal women, the female burial mode was not so much “reserved for females”, as it was that males would instead be “preserved from” that kind of burial. A rank-and-file-female mode of burial reasonably seems a negative comment on the man’s masculinity or his societal caste. If the comment on his sexual orientation, and not his occupation, I would think the message was anything but a positive one.

  26. Mike says:

    Centristian,
    Thanks…I felt like I was taking a long shot when that film came to mind here!

  27. benedetta says:

    Yes, the logic is, here is a culture which had extremely defined gender roles such that if you were a woman the rituals called for very particular burial with your household items (or as it may be in the case of some of, instruments of torture…). Yet, this culture with obsessively reinforced gender roles sent this one off in a final ritual as a woman. I think in academia generally these days the situation is so competitive to gain attention for one’s work that even if you are in archeology you promote your findings in the ways which will necessarily be the most sensational thereby increasing the likelihood of attention to the work. Archeology doesn’t make day to day international headlines. But this one does as do the ones which leap to all sorts of new conclusions which, because it is supposedly “science” we should accept, all about “who Jesus really was”…

    If it is true that this primitive culture thoughtfully sent off a man who lived differently from other men in the way he would have most wanted, displaying remarkable compassion for those who do not fit the tribe mentality, well, they were much more evolved than your average 5th graded class…thus demonstrating that we in fact have “devolved”?

  28. SK Bill says:

    Whaddaya bet that in the next round of grade school textbooks we find this bit of bad archaeology reported as fact? Then we can have a huge fight over it when the State of Texas review process refuses to allow it, and we Texans can put up with another round of being scorned in the press as a bunch of ignorant rednecks.

  29. albinus1 says:

    Because if it has a biological basis then it can’t be changed, and therefore to discriminate against people for something that they can’t change is wrong,

    So much for the height requirements for flight attendants (not too tall), figher pilots (not too short), etc. Also so much for all the women who won’t date men who are shorter than they are. (Which is about 90% of the women I know.) Bring ‘em up on charges! (/sarcasm)

  30. amenamen says:

    Has no one condidered that Glak may have been an Irishman, buried with his feet pointing toward his native land? There is textual evidence from the song, “Finnegan’s Wake”:

    “They rolled him up in a nice clean sheet
    And laid him out upon the bed,
    A gallon of whiskey at his feet
    And a barrel of porter at his head.”

    And from “The Jug of Punch”:

    “And when I’m dead and in my grave
    No costly tombstone will I have
    Just lay me down in my native peat
    With a jug of punch at my head and feet .”

  31. benedetta says:

    amenamen, Yes. I fitting tribute for poor McGlak.

  32. albizzi says:

    I have another explanation:
    This man was an eunuch in charge of a harem.
    He couldn’t be considered like a man since he had been castrated and therefore he was buried with the women he had to watch over.

  33. Alice says:

    Actually Glak was a very enlightened man and allowed his wife to “wear the pants” in their relationship. Neither his wife nor his less enlightened tribe liked it, so they took their revenge and buried him as a woman.

    Albizzi, I’m pretty sure that Catullus, in his longest poem, refers to some dude or other who cut off his “manhood” in honor of that goddess whose chariot was pulled by lions as a woman. It’s been a while since I read Catullus, but we discovered that a great way to avoid translating our lines was to go off on tangents about sex and gender in antiquity so we discussed this A LOT.

  34. BLB Oregon says:

    In Summary: Sure it is an odd finding, any of us could guess what it means, but most of us have been around the barn enough times to feel some scepticism whenever we read a variation on the phrase “Archaeologists have unearthed…what they believe may have been… ”

    It’s right up there with the infamous “Hello! I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help you.”

  35. albinus1 says:

    Alice — you’re thinking of Catullus 63, which isn’t his longest poem (that would be poem 64), but is certainly one of his longer poems. The only surviving poem from antiquity in the galliambic meter, it is sometimes referred to as Cybele and Attis, and describes how Attis, in a frenzy, castrates himself to become a devote(e) of the goddess Cybele, and then regrets what he did. One of the fascinating things about the poem is that after Attis castrates himself, Catullus switches to feminine pronouns and adjectives to refer to him.

  36. Yes, Attis, and the goddess was Cybele. (It’s not his longest poem, though.)

  37. Alice says:

    Thanks Albinus1 and Abiologistforlife. We were probably too busy talking about sex and gender in antiquity to try to read Catullus’ longest poem. (To be fair, that was the only one of my Classics classes where we got away with that behavior and it had a lot to do with the fact that a number of my classmates were taking the Sex and Gender in Antiquity class.)

  38. q7swallows says:

    >They hated Glak and wanted to humiliate him in the eternal Mammoth Hunting Ground.

    Gee, thanks, Fr. Z . . .

  39. More on the Motel of the Mysteries… and apt comparison for the conclusions in the bit at the top of this entry.

  40. catholicmidwest says:

    Excuse me. Being mistaken for a woman wouldn’t not be humiliating. Being mistaken for a man might be.

  41. James Joseph says:

    Maybe the cave man was a pharmacist.

  42. jflare says:

    A classic example for why I have long since quit respecting the ideas presented by archaeologists and similar ilk.

    Being a former weather guy, I’ll offer this suggestion:
    I believe the Czech Republic has lots of hills, mountains, and valleys all around. And rivers.
    Maybe poor Glak happened to be an excellent pot-maker, so he had a shop with pots around. His primary customers might’ve been women from the town. Some of his countrymen figured out how to dam a river, but like at Johnstown, PA, didn’t maintain it. A severe rainstorm broke the dam, thereby burying the town in a nasty flood. Rather than try to dig everyone out, the survivors merely moved someplace else that wasn’t quite so flood-prone.

    Thus poor Glak winds up buried as found, with a confusing appearance that a foolish archaeologist can’t understand.

    Farfetched perhaps, but no more than any other option I’ve read….

  43. robtbrown says:

    So there was a cave with a hair salon. Who woulda thunk it?

  44. q7swallows says:

    OR . . . . Glak was a thoughtful and influential medicine man who held unusual but appealing views about the lousy translations of cave drawings that previous medicine men had inflicted upon the society concerning proper worship of the Deity. The people were so grateful to him that they insisted he remain in his cave that day. While the men of the tribe were out killing the fatted mammoth to barbeque in his honor, the women of the tribe were sent to him bearing respectful tributes of fermented grains and grapes and . . . jugs of freshly brewed Mystic Monk coffee. (!) When disaster struck as jflare says above . . . .

  45. Mark R says:

    Indo-europeans lived in that territory. They did not bury their dead, they burned them…as is still the case in traditional India.