Bad to the Bone: The Rise of Awakened Archeology

The trans revolution is like the war in Ukraine. On some fronts, Ukrainian troops are advancing slowly; on others, they recede. Similarly, in the UK, the trans juggernaut may have come to a halt after the closure of the Tavistock Gender Clinic. But on distant battlefields, trans activists are winning small victories in unexpected places.

Like archeology.

Archeology? Yes, a group called the Black trowel collective published a manifesto — Archaeologists for Trans Liberation. He calls on colleagues to recognize gender fluidity in bones found in ancient burial sites.

“There is overwhelming evidence from past societies that our current ways of understanding sex and gender are ephemeral and contingent. Neither sex nor gender is fixed or immutable over time and across cultures.

But it’s more like disappointing evidence. Over the past 30 years, archaeologists have occasionally found skeletons with confusing social roles and sex characteristics. A dig in Finland, for example, discovered 1,000-year-old bones with swords, suggesting the person was male, and jewelry, suggesting the person was female. A study of the severely damaged DNA suggested the mysterious deceased may have had Klinefelter syndrome, in which a person carries the XXY sex chromosomes and can have both male and female characteristics.

Academics who published their findings in the European journal of archeology were keen to promote the idea that the person might have been intersex. But their analysis contains so many maybes and possibilities that its value as evidence of a trans culture in the ancient world is nil.

Another example cited by trans archaeologists is the “Lovers of Modena”. In 2009, archaeologists in Modena, Italy discovered a 1,500-year-old tomb with two skeletons that appeared to be holding hands. In 2019, an analysis of their tooth enamel suggested they were both male. Ah! Homosexual lovers! Or, more likely, brothers, or cousins, or comrades in arms.

While the manifesto of some “anarchist archaeologists” may not seem like a hill to die on, archeology is an important battleground. (For more on the subject, see the website of queer archeology.)

The trans narrative is that trans people have always existed and have been rendered invisible by the oppressive cis-normative bigotry of Western culture and a Christian moral code. If burial sites provide evidence that pre-industrial and pre-Christian societies happily accepted trans people, then gender fluidity must be natural and good and must be protected.

And, in fact, it’s not just Twitter lunatics defending the Eternal Trans; serious academics are also trying to make it credible. The Finnish and German scientists who analyzed Suontaka’s tomb preface their study with this remark: “The gender binary division is arguably rooted in a modern Western mindset, and gender norms and expectations have varied culturally, geographically and temporally”.

Which is basically the argument of the Black Trowel Collective, an argument that threatens to revolutionize the study of history itself.

Traditionally, historians have studied evidence from the past to identify enduring values ​​in human nature and society. The most fundamental of these are the male-female binary and the family. In all societies that have ever existed, the mother, father, child and family are the umbrella and the canvas protecting the advance of humanity. Historians who do not accept them as an interpretive key to understanding human experience will turn the obscure and fragmentary evidence of past ages into something that supports their own bias.

Additionally, trans activists are determined to intimidate anyone who refuses to believe their myths. As the Black Trowel Collective puts it menacingly:

Archaeologists, as experts in written and unwritten histories, must fight those who distort the past to harm people today. It is our duty to interrupt, contradict and correct anyone who dares to rationalize his own bigotry in this way. We do this by ensuring that our scientific reporting does not reproduce transphobic and binary interpretative assumptions. Our past is diverse, multi-vocal and queer and we need to tell those stories.

There’s another interesting twist to these attempts to defend the trans narrative based on (even flimsy) historical evidence. The anarchist archaeologists of the Black Trowel Collective assert defiantly this

Essentially, archaeological data allows us to perceive a past that is, like the present, culturally diverse and full of people whose own experiences of their world have been shaped by their distinct social, political and environmental contexts. It is simply incorrect to impose prejudices of today on the past (added emphasis).

Serious scholars echo this. A scholar who studied 7000 year old tombs in the Durankulak cemetery along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast – one of the most important sites of global prehistory – argued that they provide evidence that not all early societies were exclusively binary. “Our own assumptions can be very dangerous, as we project cultural values ​​that we see as inherent in past societies,” she wrote.

Amen to that! So why are we toppling statues and renaming buildings? Why should we respect the worldview of people who lived 7,000 years ago, but not the prejudices of people who lived 200 years ago?

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