Dubbed "Eternal Embrace," the image below has been reproduced worldwide and vaulted to the top of Yahoo!'s most e-mailed pictures list.
The grave, recently uncovered in Italy, is thought to be 5,000 to 6,000 years old, and it is the only known instance of a double burial from the Neolithic era. Mothers holding children have been found at Pompeii, but never have an adult man and woman been found together.
What is more, the intertwining of the legs and arms leaves little doubt that they were clutching. Almost certainly, then, they were alive when they went into the hole.
There is an arrowhead in the spine of the man, and an arrowhead in the side of the woman.
Nobody will ever know who they were, or why they died. The archaeologist who found the skeletons speculates there might be religious implications: "Menotti said it's possible that the man died first, and the woman was sacrificed after to accompany his soul."
I'm skeptical because that suggests a formality that the postures of the skeletons doesn't support. This looks to me like the expeditious disposal of two still-alive people who died horribly — a romantic triangle, perhaps, or revenge for attempting to filch some guy's catch of fish.
Naturally, the press has taken the most romantic view imaginable: "Archaeologists find prehistoric Romeo and Juliet locked in eternal embrace". Even notoriously unsentimental al Jazeera has got into the act: "Skeletons show off eternal love". Maybe, maybe not; it may just as easily be the case that one grabbed the other for use as a shield.
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