3 comments February 7th, 2007at 08:36pm Posted by Eli

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Archaeological Society SAP via Associated Press

Sweet, but sad:

They died young and, by the looks of it, in love. Two 5,000-year-old skeletons found locked in an embrace near the city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale “Romeo and Juliet” have sparked theories the remains of a far more ancient love story have been found.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons dating back to the late Neolithic period outside Mantua, 25 miles south of Verona, the city of Shakespeare’s story of doomed love.

Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, because their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.

“As far as we know, it’s unique,” Menotti told The Associated Press by telephone from Milan. “Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”


Although the Mantua pair strike an unusual and touching pose, archaeologists have found other prehistoric burials in which the dead hold hands or have other contact, said Luca Bondioli, an anthropologist at Rome’s National Prehistoric and Ethnographic Museum.

Bondioli, who was not involved in the Mantua dig, said the find has “more of an emotional than a scientific value.” But it does highlight how the relationship people have with each other and with death has not changed much from the period in which humanity first settled in villages, learning to farm the land and tame animals, he said.

“The Neolithic is a very formative period for our society,” he said. “It was when the roots of our religious sentiment were formed.”

Menotti said the burial was “a ritual, but we have to find out what it means.”

Experts might never determine the exact nature of the pair’s relationship, but Menotti said she had little doubt it was born of a deep sentiment.

“It was a very emotional discovery,” she said. “From thousands of years ago we feel the strength of this love. Yes, we must call it love.”

I wonder how long love has been around. A lot longer than 5,000 years, I bet.

Entry Filed under: Science


  • 1. elmo  |  February 7th, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Love knows no century, it just is…

  • 2. bdr  |  February 8th, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Haunting, though it’s a sign of our romantic optimism that our first assumption is that they were lovers who died tragically. Helps explain our need for fiction.

  • 3. Jayne  |  May 17th, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Regardless of what we assume, or wish to be true, about this pair, one thing is clear.. this is not a hostile embrace. Legs tucked, arms intertwined, faces very near.. it’s hard to jump to a conclusion that does not involve these two people knowing each other in some elevated fashion. Close friends? Siblings? Lovers? Any of these is possible.

    I don’t know when it becomes impossible to determine, but what I really wonder about is the cause of death for these two. Did they die in that position (sick, starving, injured, etc), or were they arranged after death? If they were arranged, the possibility even exists that they were enemies in life, but for whatever reason it was thought that by bringing the bodies close in death, the spirits may forgive one another in the afterlife.

    It’s sad, if nothing else. Poses like these remind you that you are not looking at an evolutionary anatomy lesson, and instead of people, not dissimilar from us, who once lived, laughed, wept, and died.

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