The gay cave paintings of Addaura, Sicily

Replica of the paleolithical drawings in the cave of Addaura from the Museo Regionale Archeologico in Palermo. (Photographer: Bernhard J. Scheuvens aka Bis)

One of the oldest depictions of sex we have ever found is a piece of homoerotic art. Carved into a Sicilian cave wall 120 centuries ago (!), the drawings of the Addaura cave depict men in bird masks with genitals displayed dancing in a circle. In the center of the circle two men with erections are poised one over the other, the erect penis of the male above connected by parallel lines with the buttocks of the man below. It is comical to read the tourist descriptions of these drawings as acrobatics, as if the men of 10,000 BC went deep into caves, pulled out their erections, and did cartwheels together. A more likely explanation came from the cave’s discoverer who described them as possible depiction of homoerotic initiation rituals, a likely possibility from a time when sexuality and the sacred where still merged.

If the caves of Addaura point to same-sex sexuality, the recent discovery of a male skeleton of a buried as a woman points to ancient gender variations. Five thousand years ago, a tribe of Stone Age humans lived near what is now Prague. We know little about them other than what we glean from their burial customs. Men were buried on their right sides with their heads facing east along with their weapons, flint knives, and tools like hammers. Women were buried with their heads facing west with their necklaces made from teeth, pets, copper earrings, and distinctive egg shaped jars. In 2011 scientists dug up a male skeleton buried in the female position without weapons but with household jugs and the egg shaped jar at his feet. There is no way to know how this man lived his life, if he was gay and loved men or transexual and lived his life as a woman. All we do know is that when he died his people gave him a respectful and traditional burial, as a woman.

Early gay man from around 2900-2500 B.C., found outside Prague.