'Lovers of Modena' Skeletons Buried Holding Hands Were Males, New Analysis Confirms

The skeletal remains buried in Roman times were assumed to be of a man and a woman

The new discovery could now help researchers understand ancient funeral practices in Italy.

Researchers at the University of Bologna were able to use a new technique in which they extracted proteins from the dental enamel of both individuals to determine that the skeletons, always assumed to have been a female-male couple, were in fact two males. They were dubbed the "Lovers of Modena" by the global media.

This isn't the first time two skeletons were discovered hand-in-hand or embracing, but all the other documented cases were a man and a woman.

But a new technique, using the protein on tooth enamel, revealed their sex.

The two adults lived somewhere in between the 4th and 6th Century AD, according to a study published on Wednesday.

"There are now no other examples of this type", Federico Lugli, a researcher at the University of Bologna and the lead author of the Nature study, told Rai News. "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".

The "Lovers of Modena", a pair of skeletons so called because they were buried hand-in-hand, were both men, researchers have found.

While it is not clear exactly what the relationship was between the two individuals-whose remains date back to between 1,600 and 1,400 years ago-the researchers speculate that they could have been relatives, soldiers, or possibly even lovers.

Archaeologists have unearthed examples of ancient male-female pairs that were buried holding hands. "At present, no other burials of this type are known", Federico Lugli, the lead author of the study, told the newspaper La Repubblica.

"The success of the analysis method we used represents a real revolution for this type of study", said co-author Antonino Vazzana".

The poor preservation of the remains made it previously impossible for scientists to perform any genetic analysis to establish the sex of the corpses.

"The two "Lovers" could have been war comrades or friends, who died together during a skirmish and were buried within the same grave".

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.

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