History

Skeletons in 6,000-Year-Old Embrace Found in Cave

The prehistoric remains were positioned curled into the fetal position, as if spooning each other.

A 6,000-year-old romance has been uncovered in a Greek cave as archaeologists unearthed the skeletons of an undisturbed Neolithic couple locked in an embrace.

Found in the Alepotrypa, or foxhole, one of the Diros caves in southern Greece, the prehistoric remains were positioned curled into the fetal position, as if spooning each other. The grave also contained broken arrowheads.

Although the pair was originally found in 2014 by a team of archaeologists and speleologists led by George Papathanassopoulos, the Greek Ministry of Culture announced the results of DNA and radio carbon tests on Thursday, just in time for Valentine's Day.

Couple Held Hands for 1,500 Years

The skeletons were dated to 3800 B.C. and DNA analysis confirmed the remains belong to a man and a woman.

"Double burials in embrace are extremely rare," the ministry said. "The skeletons of Diros represent one of the oldest, if not the oldest, found to this date," it added.

Discovered in 1958, the Alepotrypa Cave was used between 6000 and 3200 B.C. and served as both a settlement and a cemetery.

Around 3200 B.C., the entrance collapsed because of a severe earthquake, burying the cave inhabitants alive.

Video: The Dark Side of Valentine's Day

Excavations in recent years have yielded the remains of adults, children and even embryos.

The archaeologists also discovered a 13-foot wide crypt, paved with a unique pebble floor. The burial contained dozens of skeletons, along with pottery, beads and a dagger.

The researchers have been so far unable to establish the cause of death of the 5,800-year-old couple. But the fact that they were buried together in such a position suggests they possibly died at the same time.

Image: The 5,800-year-old couple locked in embrace. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture.

This 6,500-year-old skeleton was found in the basement of the Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). It belonged to a once well-muscled, 5'9" man, estimated to be at least 50 years old.

The complete skeleton was unearthed at the site of Ur, an ancient city near modern-day Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, in 1929–30 by a joint Penn Museum/British Museum excavation team led by Sir Leonard Woolley. The team excavated 48 graves in a floodplain, all dating to the Ubaid period (5500-4000 B.C.) but only one skeleton was in good enough condition to recover. This archival image shows the skeleton in silt deposits as it was excavated at Ur. Note the semi-crushed skull and the pottery at the feet.

A lightweight plaster mixture is placed over the covered skeleton to protect it during shipping. The silt is already being cut away under the skeleton to make room for the carrying board.

Workers carry the complete skeleton on its board up 50 feet of carved stairs and out of the dig.

Held together with wax, the skeleton was shipped to London for examination, and then on to Philadelphia. There, it rested in a wooden box with no catalog card, or identifying number, for 85 years — one of 150,000 bone specimens in the museum's possession