That a pair of hand-holding skeletons, known as the “Lovers of Modena”, whose gesture of love has been preserved in mud for 1,500 years, were both male scientists have determined using DNA analysis.
According to The Guardian, “‘Lovers of Modena‘ skeletons holding hands were both men. The “Lovers of Modena”, a pair of skeletons so called because they were buried hand-in-hand, were both men, researchers have found. The bones, from between the 4th and 6th century AD, were found in a cemetery in 2009 near Modena in northern Italy.”
Researchers at the University of Bologna, in Italy, can now only speculate on how these two men were connected — perhaps as relatives or fellow soldiers, according to the study appearing in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal.
When news first broke of the so-called “lovers,” excavation director Donato Labate told Discovery News in 2011, “We believe that they were originally buried with their faces staring into each other.”
At the time, archaeologists assumed the two were man and woman. The set of bones thought to be female, who was found wearing a bronze ring, seemed locked in a centuries-long gaze with its partner.
“[They] evoke an uplifting tenderness,” Labate said, adding, “I have been involved in many digs, but I’ve never felt so moved.”
.Researchers also say the couple was likely buried this way intentionally, which was not an unusual funeral practice during that time. The 6,000-year-old “Lovers of Valdaro,” dug up from a Neolithic tomb near Mantua in northern Italy, were discovered in a full-on embrace, as well as couples found at the Alepotrypa Cave in Greece; Diyarbakir, Turkey; and Staryi Tartas in Siberia — all of them presumed to be heterosexual pairings.
“We suggest that the ‘Lovers of Modena’ burial represents a voluntary expression of commitment between two individuals,” the authors wrote in their study.
They add that social and religious restrictions on homosexual relationships make it unlikely that the two men were positioned in a “deliberate manifestation of homosexual relationship.”
“Although we cannot exclude that these two individuals were actually in love, it is unlikely that people who buried them decided to show such bond by positioning their bodies hand in hand,” they conclude.