Lovers of Modena skeletons holding hands were both men

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 13, 2019

Using a new technique that analyzed the protein on the tooth enamel of the two badly preserved skeletons, a team of researchers from the University of Bologna concluded that the figures were actually two men.

What is known about the skeletons is that they were "two Late Antique individuals whose skeletons were intentionally buried hand-in-hand", according to the study. Since their discovery, researchers have believed the couple to be man and woman, but a new analysis suggests that the duo is, in fact, two biological males, spurring more questions than answers.

While it can not be discounted that the two men were indeed lovers, the social attitudes of society at the time-dominated by Christian religious restrictions-means it was unlikely that those who buried them would have chosen to highlight this relationship if they were aware of it, the researchers said. "We were able to extract proteins from the dental enamel of both individuals (~1600 years old) and to confidently classify them as males", the paper says. "In the past, several graves were found with pairs of individuals laid hand in hand, but in all cases, it was a man and a woman".

A photo made available by the University of Bologna shows a couple of skeletons known as the "Lovers of Modena" in northern Italy. "What the connection was between the two individuals in the Modena burial remains a mystery for the moment".

Archaeologists have unearthed examples of ancient male-female pairs that were buried holding hands.

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We don't know the circumstances of their relationship or their burial together. Christian society at the time would likely have "frowned upon" homosexual love.

'At present there are no other burials of this type, ' Study author Federico Lugli told Italy's Rai news site.

Due to the poor state of the remains, it was not possible to establish the sex of the couple, despite successive attempts using genetic analysis techniques.

And if you'd like to take a peek yourself, the "Lovers of Mondera" are visible to the public at the Civic Archaeological Ethnological Museum of Modena.

The researchers suggest the pair could have been members of the same family such as brothers or cousins or they were soldiers buried together in a war grave.

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