The history of the skeletons buried together 6,000 years ago
On February 11, 2007, right before Valentine's Day, archeologist Elena Maria Menotti and a team of researchers uncovered a Neolithic burial site in the village of Valdaro, Italy, containing two skeletons locked in a loving embrace. Ongoing research is trying to answer the questions of who these people were and why they were buried together. Could they be the real Romeo and Juliet?
Double burials were extremely rare during the Neolithic period that dates back around 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. This burial site was found among 30 other sites, but all of those only contained single burials. The site was discovered in a construction site on the outskirts of the city of Mantua, near the northern region of Lombardy, Italy.
It's very unique for two young people to have died at the same time and to be buried this way, leading many to speculate the Romeo and Juliet theory—two star-crossed lovers who died in each other's arms.
To add credence to the theory—the city of Mantua, near the burial site, is the same city where Romeo is sent after he kills Tybalt Capulet in a sword fight in Shakespeare’s iconic play. Romeo dreams he dies and is revived by Juliet’s kiss, which freaks him out, so he leaves his exile to return to Verona where he is informed Juliet is now dead, and well, you know the rest.
The two skeletons, the man on the left and the woman on the right, were about 5 feet 2 inches tall and no more than 20 years old. The male skeleton had a flint arrowhead near his neck, and the female had a long flint blade along her thigh, in addition to two flint knives under her pelvis. An examination found no evidence of violent death, so these items were most likely grave goods, items buried with bodies after they died.
"It's rare for two young people to die at the same time, and that makes us want to know why and who they were, but it will be very difficult to find out," Luca Bondioli, an anthropologist at Rome's National Prehistoric and Ethnographic Museum, said in an interview.
DNA testing and carbon dating take time, and the process is harder because the skeletons remain together, rather than the bones being individually examined. The excavation team dug the earth around the couple, and the block of the earth in which they rested was lifted out of the ground with large belts, placed in a yellow wooden box and sent to an archaeological laboratory at the Musei Civici in Como.
Today, they still remain together on display under one case at National Archaeological Museum of Mantua. If you have a soft spot for romance, you can book an Italian villa getaway in Lombardy and stop by to pay the lovers a visit.
The Lovers of Valdaro are the inspiration for our 2020 Valentine's Day mug.
[Featured Image Credit: Dagmar Hollmann via Wikimedia Commons]