Imagine you’re an archaeologist digging away in some dirt and you come across something that at first seems like a human bone.
Then, you keep digging and eventually two full, nearly intact skeletons facing each other with limbs entwined emerges from the dust. You’ve just discovered one of the most romantic archeological findings in history – the lovers of Valdaro.
Not that long ago, in 2011, a team of archaeologists led by Elena Maria Menotti came across a double burial. The location was in the village of Valdaro, near Mantua, in the northern region of Lombardy. Turns out, these skeletal lovers had been in each other’s arms for over 6,000 years.
It didn’t take long for the story to resonate with romantics all over the world. In fact, when the “lovers” were discovered, it was close to Valentine’s Day. Because of this, the photos of their embrace were published all over media worldwide, and caused quite a stir.
The ‘Romeo And Juliet’ Connection Goes Deeper Than You Think
Double burials from the Neolithic period are really rare! That’s only the start of what’s unique about this groundbreaking (haha, get it?) discovery.
They are the only example of a double burial in Northern Italy found to date. And while historians haven’t been able to pinpoint how they died, many have made the connection between the lovers of Valdaro and a prehistoric Romeo and Juliet.
The idea that they were star-crossed lovers who took their own lives doesn’t seem viable. However, Shakespeare set his Romeo and Juliet in nearby Verona, creating more parallels between the two.
What’s even more coincidental is that the authorities exiled Romeo to Mantua, which is very close to the village of Valdaro. This is where they told him that Juliet was dead.
To make things even more perplexing, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, another tale of star-crossed love and death, was also set in Mantua.
It seems the lovers of Valdaro were extremely influential, even from deep in the ground.
How Did The Lovers Of Valdaro Die? Do We Know Any Information About Them?
Because the bones are so old, it’s hard to draw a lot of detail from the lovers of Valdaro for research. How did the lovers of Valdaro die? We’re not totally sure.
Further, it’s been challenging to do a full assessment because it’s crucial that the lovers of Valdaro remain in their exact original position. Because of this, it’s harder to break them down and study them piece-by-piece without compromising their positions.
What we do know is that researchers estimate the couple was no older than 20 when they died. Both of them were about 5’2″, and the male is on the left. An osteological exam showed no evidence of a violent death. However, they found the male skeleton with a flint arrowhead near his neck. The female had a long stone blade along her thigh and two flint knives under her pelvis.
Further, because they found the bodies in a necropolis, we know that the grave-people put the couple into their final position after death.
How (And Where) To View The Valdaro Lovers
If you’re a hopeless romantic and you want to iew these two lovers locked in eternal embrace, you can.
They briefly displayed the skeletons in public for the first time in September, 2011. They appeared at the Mantua Archaeological Museum in the entrance… but it was only temporary. A group of enthusiasts started an association for “Lovers in Mantua”, and campaigned for them to have a room of their own.
Because of this, you can now visit the lovers of Valdaro at the Archaeological Museum of Mantua full time. They’re permanently on display inside a shatterproof glass case so their embrace can stand more than the test of time.