Ancient Roman Hand-Holding Skeletons Were Both Guys
The association between both 1,600-year-old people is unknown, but their burial suggests a close bond.
Brothers? Friends? Soldiers? Life partners? Researchers do not know the connection between two people buried side-by-side holding hands. But new findings surrounding the archeological find, known as the”Lovers of Modena,” reveal both were adult men.
Discovered from the Ciro Menotti cemetery in Modena, Italy in 2009, the 1,600-year-old skeletons captivated the people who had widely assumed that the pair was a man and woman (partially because one skeleton was marginally smaller than another ). But the sex of this pair wasn’t determined at the time because of poor preservation.
But, according to research from the Universities of Bologna and Modena, researchers managed to extract proteins in the dental enamel of both skeletons. The proteins in the teeth contained a peptide found only in men.
“Although we currently have no information on the true connection between the ‘Lovers of Modena’ (affective? Kin-based?), the discovery of two adult men intentionally buried hand-in-hand could have deep consequences for our understanding of funerary practices in Late Antique Italy,” the analysis states.
The Lovers of Modena were initially found with 11 other skeletons, some of which showed signs of injury, probably associated with a violent death during the war, according to the study. In the aftermath of this peculiar finding, the investigators note, media theorized that the skeletons were those of a man and woman who had been in love.
“There are no additional burials of the sort,” Federico Lugli, an author of the study, tells the ANSA news agency. “Many tombs have been discovered before with couples holding hands, but in most cases, it was a man and a woman.”
The analysis suggests the odd burial, located in a what is supposed to be a war cemetery, represents a”voluntary expression of commitment between two people, as opposed to a Roman cult practice of the Late Antiquity.”
“This way, both lovers’ could have been war comrades or friends, who died together through a skirmish and, thus, buried inside exactly the exact same tomb,” the study states.
“Instead, the two people were relatives, possibly brothers or cousins given their similar ages, sharing the same tomb because of their family bond. Although we can’t exclude that both of these individuals were really in love, it’s not likely that people who murdered them chose to reveal these bond by positioning their bodies hand in hand.”
What is likely, researcher Giulia Di Rocco informs CNN, is that they were buried together. “They could be cousins, brothers, friends,” she informs the network. “They could be fans. They’re all equally probable, I believe.”