The ancient graves with couples in loving embrace
Late last year, archaeologists revealed an incredible discovery in a village in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia where scientists were studying some 600 Bronze Age tombs – dozens of them contained the skeletal remains of couples clutching onto each other in loving embrace.
The ancient burials were found near the village of Staryi Tartas and are said to date to between the 17th and 14th centuries BC. The couples had been buried with care, facing each other, some with their hands still clasped together seemingly for eternity. Around them were grave goods including bronze decorations, ceramic pottery, armaments and more personal belongings such as gaming pieces and a mould for casting earrings and pendants.
“The best fairy tales have always ended 'They lived happily ever after, and died on the same day’. It is quite astonishing how the fairy tales become life, as the bronze burials tell us a story how some people were not divided even by death,” said archaeologist Vasiliy Labetskiy.
An analysis of the graves and the remains revealed that the bodies do not belong to native Siberians but to individuals belonging to the Andronovo culture, who had a more Caucasian appearance.
One theory that has been put forward is that the couples were placed in this position to reflect the importance attached to relationships and family values by this ancient culture. But it doesn’t explain how or why the individuals died at the same time.
Another more macabre theory has been put forward which shatters the fairy tale image of the couples in loving embrace.
According to Professor Lev Klein of St Petersburg State University the burials are linked to reincarnation beliefs possibly influenced by deeksha rituals in the ancient Indian sub-continent at the time when the oldest scriptures of Hinduism were composed. “Behind Andronov burials lay extraordinary stories about travels and discoveries, about human destinies and the destinies of whole civilisations,” said Klein.
According to their beliefs, the man during his lifetime donated his body as a sacrifice to all the gods and in order to complete the 'deeksha', which means ‘consecration for a religious ceremony’, one made a ritual sexual act of conceiving. In other words, in death a man should perform a sexual act to impregnate a woman.
Klein has proposed that the relatives of the deceased sought to reproduce this ritual posthumously and sacrificed his wife, or another woman, so that sexual intercourse could be simulated in the grave by placing the bodies in positions of intimacy.
Scientists are seeking more evidence to discover what was behind these burials and if Klein’s theory is correct. But for Labetskiy, there is “a certain beauty in this unfinished story”.