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Remains of an embracing couple found near the entrance of the Alepotrypa Cave.

Greek archaeologists find 5,800-year-old skeleton couple in loving embrace


Archaeologists have found the remains of a young Neolithic couple embracing each other at an archaeological site near the Diros Caves in the Peloponnese region of Greece.

According to ekathimerini news , the two skeletons belong to a man and woman between 20 and 25 years old, and date back to 3,800 BC.  They were surrounded by a number of grave goods including an ossuary, several ceramic urns, beads, and other offerings.

Giorgos Papathanassopoulo, the archaeologist who has been leading excavations at the Diros cavern since the 1970s described it as a “stunning discovery” and said it is possibly “the oldest grave to have ever been found” in the country. He added that the position of the couple and the fact that they were buried together, demonstrates the importance given to family in ancient times.

The Diros Caves are a series of caves located in Pirgos Diros, which are among the most important natural sites in Greece and are famous for their spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. After the caves were discovered in the 1950s, it was soon realized that they had been used extensively as a shelter, dwelling, workshop, storage area, burial site, and place of worship during the Neolithic period.  The known part of the caves cover an area of around 33,000 square meters of which only 5000 square meters have been explored to date.

One of the Diros Caves in Greece

One of the Diros Caves in Greece ( Wikimedia Commons )

The remains of the embracing couple were found near the northern entrance of the Alepotrypa (“Foxhole”) Cave. The richness of artifacts discovered in Alepotrypa suggest the existence of a populous society from around 4,000 BC, which eventually developed into an important center that engaged largely in trade, maritime travel, farming and stockbreeding.

One of the most significant finds in Alepotrypa was that the cave had been used as a cemetery and for burial rituals.

“Giorgos Papathanassopoulos has always argued...that the cave was a kind of pilgrimage site where important people were buried, leading to the fanciful idea that this was the original entrance to Hades, that it was the source of the Greek fascination with the underworld,” archaeologist Michael Galaty from Millsaps College in Missorri told Live Science .  "The burial sites and rituals that took place really do give the cave an underworld feel.”

Researcher Takis Karkanas analyzing deposits in Alepotrypa Cave.

Researcher Takis Karkanas analyzing deposits in Alepotrypa Cave. Credit: Attila Gyucha

It is not yet clear how the Neolithic couple were killed, whether they died in the position they were found, or whether they had been placed like that after death.

It is not the first time that skeletal remains of loving couples have been found. In 2012, archaeologists in a village in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia found dozens of Bronze Age tombs containing the skeletal remains of couples clutching onto each other in loving embrace.

Bronze Age couple found in Novosibirsk

Bronze Age couple found in Novosibirsk, Russia

In 2013, researchers discovered the remains of a medieval couple holding hands in a former Dominican monastery in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and in September last year, archaeologists found two skeletons holding hands at an ancient site of pilgrimage, in the newly-discovered Chapel of St Morrell in Leicestershire England. Such findings shine a light on the humanity behind ancient discoveries and lead us to wonder about who they were, how they died, and what their lives may have been like.

The remains of a couple holding hands in Modena, Italy

The remains of a couple holding hands in Modena, Italy (Credit: Rex Features)

Featured image: Remains of an embracing couple found near the entrance of the Alepotrypa Cave. Credit: ANA-MPA

By April Holloway

Comments

I was just wondering if any of the scientists have done any tests to determine if the couple embracing may have been murdered or even buried alive? It just seems odd they would have died together. In my 46 years of living I've only heard of one couple who'ved died at the same time and even they died one day apart.

rbflooringinstall's picture

That’s pretty interesting. It really does make you wonder what their lives could have been like.

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

After viewing the photo of the found couple in the first photo, the skull of the skeleton on the right appears to be in many pieces. Could this be due to violence inflicted upon the skull or natural degradation due to age and decomposition? Additionally, it is not common to find couples buried together, so it will be very interesting to see if the cause of death for both of the skeletons can be determined. A lot of care and time went into the burial of this couple.

Personally, I find myself torn on excavating grave sites. On one hand, many important discoveries have been made in regards to artifacts, practices, customs, etc. of ancient societies through the excavation of ancient grave sites. On the other hand. I find myself questioning the morality and ethics of disturbing the final resting place of an individual. This is a hotly debated topic within many cultures. One very recent example of this was the reburial of the Ice Maiden. who was very well known for the excellent preservation of her tattoos.

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