Grave of Stone Age ‘gender bender’ excavated in Prague

Archaeologists have unearthed a unique late Stone Age grave of a ‘transsexual or gay man’ in a suburb of the Czech capital

Society
Chris Johnstone | 05.04.2011
The Prague 6 archeological site will be opened to the public on Thursday

Czech archaeologists have discovered what they are calling a “third gender grave” — a unique late Stone Age grave of a transsexual or gay man — dating from between 2500-2800 BC and the era of the so-called Corded Ware culture in the Czech Republic. Speculation about the sexual orientation of the buried man was sparked by the unorthodox positions in which his skeleton was found, in a society which was a real stickler for grave etiquette.

“From history and ethnology, we know that when a culture had strict burial rules they never made mistakes with these sort of things,” the head of the archaeological research team Kamila Remišová told journalists at a press conference about the finds on Tuesday.

The civilization from which the late Stone Age man hailed covered much of northern Europe, from the river Rhine in Germany to the Volga in Russia, and was also known as a single-grave and battle-axe culture due to separate burials and the men’s habit of being buried with — by then largely symbolic — stone axes.

Whereas male skeletons from that culture are usually found buried on their right side with their heads facing the East, this grave in Terronská Street in Prague 6 is interred on its left side with the head facing the West, the traditional position for female burials. An oval, egg-shaped container usually associated with female burials was also found at the feet of the skeleton. None of the telltale objects that usually accompany male burials — such as weapons, stone battle axes and flint knives — were found in the grave. ‘We believe this is one of the earliest cases of what could be described as a “transsexual” or “third gender grave” in the Czech Republic.’

“We believe this is one of the earliest cases of what could be described as a ‘transsexual’ or ‘third gender grave’ in the Czech Republic,” archaeologist Kateřina Semrádová told Czech Position. She said that archeologists have uncovered similar cases where men were buried as women and women as men dating from the much earlier Mesolithic period, when men hunted mammoths.

Semrádová added that a woman buried as a man — because she was probably a warrior — had been found in the Czech Republic dating from the third century BC. Siberian shamans, or latter-day witch doctors, were also buried in this way but with richer funeral accessories to appropriate to their elevated position in society.

The Prague 6 archeological site, which also features two more conventional male and female burials from the same period, will be opened to the public on Thursday with children given the opportunity to see how excavation work is carried out. 

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