The skeletal remains of a Roman-era couple reveal the pair has been holding hands for 1,500 years.
Italian archaeologists say the man and woman were buried at the same time between the 5th and 6th century A.D. in central-northern Italy. Wearing a bronze ring, the woman is positioned so she appears to be gazing at her male partner.The two skeletons, which are poorly preserved, will be now studied by Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist at the University of Bologna. The research includes establishing the couple's age, their relationship and the possible cause of death.
"We believe that they were originally buried with their faces staring into each other. The position of the man's vertebrae suggests that his head rolled after death," Donato Labate, the director of the excavation at the archaeological superintendency of Emilia-Romagna, told Discovery News.
In 2007 another skeleton couple, buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, was found at a neolithic site near Mantua, just 25 miles south of Verona, where Shakespeare set the romantic story of Romeo and Juliet.
"In antiquity, it is not surprising to learn of spouses or members of a family dying at the same time: whenever epidemics such as the Black Plague ravaged Europe, one member of the family would often die while the family was trying to bury another member," Kristina Killgrove, a biological anthropologist at the University of North Carolina, told Discovery News.
Locked in a tender embrace, they also looked at one another in apparent defiance of time and decay.
"The two couples are separated in time by five millennia, and both evoke an uplifting tenderness. I have been involved in many digs, but I've never felt so moved," Labate said.
According to Killgrove, the positioning of the Modena skeletons, looking at one another and holding hands, indeed suggests they may have been a couple.
"Whoever buried these people likely felt that communicating their relationship was just as important in death as it was in life," Killgrove said.Am I sick (don't answer that), or is the picture really heart-warming? Look at those two - they really loved each other! Or, more realistically, they really learned to tolerate each other's annoying habits.