Turns out famed skeletons of 'Lovers of Modena' were both dudes

13 Septembre, 2019, 13:47 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • A new technique for analysing protein in tooth enamel has left no doubt that this was a same-sex burial

"We were able to extract proteins from the dental enamel of both individuals and to confidently classify them as males", scientists from the University of Bologna said in the journal Scientific Reports.

When archeologists first made the discovery near Modena in northern Italy in 2009, they couldn't establish the sex of the skeletons because the remains were in such a poor state.

Researchers also say the couple was likely buried this way intentionally, which was not an unusual funeral practice during that time. Women have two X chromosomes.

Now a group of researchers from the University of Bologna have determined the sex of the skeletons, thanks to a new technique of extracting protein from tooth enamel.

"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.

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The relationship between the pair remains a mystery, however researchers say the couple were buried hand-in-hand on objective. "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". When the skeletons were discovered in 2009, people couldn't resist imagining a back story for the mysterious couple, which became known in the media as the "Lovers of Modena". "What might have been the bond between the two individuals in the burial in Modena remains a mystery". "We believe that this choice symbolizes a particular relationship between the individuals, but we do not know which type", explained Lugli, adding that the notion of the two being a romantic couple seems to be far from the truth. But in every case, current research suggests that the couples are male and female.

Some of the suggestions for the link between the two skeletons are that they are siblings, cousins or soldiers who died together in battle, study author Federico Lugli told Italy's Rai news site (in Italian).

The researchers don't rule out the possibility of the men being lovers, though they suggest this explanation is unlikely due to the "social attitudes and Christian religious restrictions" of the time period.

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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