In 2009, two individuals buried in the same tomb, hand in hand, were discovered in a Modenese necropolis from the late ancient period (4th-6th century). The 1500 year-old remains were named ‘The Lovers of Modena’ and quickly became famous around the world.
It recently emerged that a research project, conducted in collaboration with the Civic Museum of Modena and with the Superintendent Archeology, Fine Art and Landscape for the metropolitan city of Bologna and the provinces of Modena, Reggio Emilia and Ferrara, had discovered an exciting new piece of information about the pair.
Initially, it was thought that the two subjects were a man and a woman, who may have been lovers. However, it has now been unveiled that the pair were, in fact, two men. The researchers analyzed the dental findings of the two skeletons and, through proteins contained in the tooth enamel, the researchers identified the sex of the two subjects.
Federico Lugli, a researcher at the University of Bologna and first author of the study, spoke to UniboMagazine about the study, stating: “At present, no other burials of this type are known. 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. What was the link between the two individuals of the Modena burial, instead, remains for the moment a mystery.”
Lugli added: “We believe that this choice symbolizes a particular relationship between the two individuals, but we do not know which type.”
Some have speculated that the ‘Lovers of Modena’ could have been a gay couple. While researchers certainly cannot rule out the possibility entirely, Lugli said: “In late ancient times it is unlikely that a homosexual love could be recognised so clearly by the people who prepared the burial.” He believes they could instead be relatives or soldiers.
The two adult males were intentionally buried hand-in-hand, researchers said. They described their burial position as a “unique representation of commitment between two men.”
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