Message #386:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Archaeological Evidence for 3rd (or 4th or 5th or...) Gendered Individuals
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 21:56:53 EST

[Clipped from  -- SASIG Ed. ]

From: Kelley Hays-Gilpin

Nick notes that hermaphrodites were recognized as a 3rd gender in the
Middle Ages (now, we surgically "correct" them to fit into one of just 2
categories).  He asks what other cultures have more than 2 genders.  I
recently heard an excellent paper by Wesley Thomas at the Navajo Studies
Conference.  He's an anthropologist who is also Navajo. He says (and my
Navajo co-workers confirm) that traditional Navajo culture has 5 genders:
 male, female, "real nadleeh" (genitally amiguous, hermaphrodite), male
nadleeh, and female nadleeh.  Male nadleehs are genitally male, but
because choice of *the kind of work you do* is what largely determines
gender in native North America, when a genitally male person wants to do
"women's" work, s/he also puts on women's clothing, marries a man, etc.
and becomes nadleeh.  If a female individual wants to do men's work, she
also wears men's clothing, and marries a woman.  In addition to taking on
the work usually assigned to the opposite sex, a nadleeh might have
unique ritual roles, or might in fact do the work of both men and women.
Now there are 2 new categories, according to Thomas:  gay and lesbian. 
These are different, because these individuals have homosexual
partnerships, and marriage between a man and a male nadleeh is classified
as heterosexual in tradional culture, as is  marriage between a woman and
a female nadleeh.  So sexual orientation is another important variable.

All this is very difficult for archaeologists trying to look at sex and
gender roles etc. around here*.  It's not like you can just go out and
identify individuals that had each of these gender identities, and
identify their activity areas, etc., which is what a lot of people seem
to think gender archaeology is all about.  But I would use the above to
show that you can't just go out and equate female-sexed bodies with women
(!a gender category!) and male-sexed bodies with men (!).  Nor should you
assume there will be a binary division of labor in non-stratified

I mostly work with Puebloan ancestral sites, but the Hopi and Zuni Pueblo
gender classification systems are pretty similar to the  Navajo system
(see Will Roscoe's "The Zuni Man-Woman"). Out of hundreds of depictions
of sexed individuals in rock art and pottery (and thousands with no
genitals depicted),  I've only found one that might show a male
nadleeh--it has a penis and the  air style worn by pubescent but
unmarried women.  That doesn't mean that in the past there were few or no
nadleeh.  It probably means that I am fixated on using genitals to infer
male and femaleness. It strikes me that depictions may just as likey
represent the gender of the person depicted--not their sex. If I were
drawing a picture of a male nadleeh, I'd be as likey as not to leave off
the penis, because it isn't as relevant to his/her identity as is choice
of clothing, ritual roles, choice or work roles.

So, in other areas, is anyone getting good archaeological evidence for
3rd (or 4th or 5th or...) gendered individuals?  Differences in burials,
depictions, etc? 

*northern Arizona.