None, I Think, Do There Embrace

By Sean Carroll | February 12, 2007 7:03 pm

Archaeologists from Valdaro, Italy, have unearthed a pair of skeletons — a couple who died young, and have been hugging for the last five thousand years. Take that, Andrew Marvell!

Skeleton Hug

Commentators were unsure of many of the basic facts about the Neolithic couple — whether they died simultaneously or one followed the other, whether it was a sudden accident or a ritual sacrifice, or even whether they are man and woman or a same-sex couple.

Opinion is unanimous, however, that they are awfully cute.

  • JoAnne

    Ha, Sean, you just barely beat me to it! Great minds obviously think alike. This photo just plain makes me smile.

  • Aaron

    D’awwwwwwwwwwwwww! ^_^

  • Meghan

    …Piles of bones are cute?

    Isn’t that a little morbid?

  • Joshua R

    nah its not morbid. we can all make the proper connections in our brain to get past the simple fact that their bones, and move on to the hopleslly romantic ideal that this is a couple who died in a loving embrace, possibly even having just recently smooched

  • Jennifer Ouellette

    I’m now actively lobbying to use this pic on our wedding invitations. It’s so deliciously Jacobean…

  • Sean

    My fiancee wants to give my mother a heart attack.

  • Allyson


    I’m totally taking you to PaperSource. You shall have these invitations. Yes. You must.

    Or, you know, maybe for your shower?

  • Allyson

    You could even make the, pop-up invitations! That’s physics, right?

    Seriously! And then get married on Halloween. Hooray!

    Okay, I’ll stop.

    But you should totally think about it!

    I’m stopping now.

  • Navneeth

    That pic would make one heck of a Valentine’s Day card!

  • Alain Gilbert

    That grave’s not so private, either :)

  • Belizean

    Opinion is unanimous, however, that they are awfully cute.

    I don’t find them cute. This poignant image seems to capture the last moments, which might well have been unspeakably painful, in the lives of two human beings. I’m surprised by the lack of imagination and ghoulish insensitivity of several posts.

  • Allyson

    What? Too soon?

  • Sean

    Shall we take a vote? I vote for “cute.”

  • Andy Lawrence

    Not obvious this is cute .. Reminds me less of Marvell and more of Mr W.S.

    “Seal with a righteous kiss… a dateless bargain to engrossing death”

  • Chinmaya Sheth

    We don’t exactly know what the facts are, but this is the blogosphere, so cute all the way!

  • Jennifer Ouellette

    More than cute: I think they’re beautiful. The hint of possible tragedy makes it all the more poignant. It’s been 5000 years, I any suffering they might have endured is long past, and what’s left is this moving image….

  • Matt

    I alway thought the vows went “Til death do us part” 😉

  • Chinmaya Sheth

    I like Jennifer’s interpretation.

    I just learned the “Til death do us part” is also a promise Swans try to keep:

  • TBB

    If it’s a young man and a woman, and one would not leave the other, it’s a very romantic notion. If they died in some ritual sacrifice or horrible killing, they (whether they are of the same gender or not) died clinging to each other in fear and not alone. If whatever happened was borne of hatred, then it is ironic they should remain together in such a way for so long. Wondering what their story was is interesting.

    But sure, the way they seem like they are smiling at each other, they are cute. It’s a very touching picture any way you look at it.

    Chinmaya, I remember a special on TV that showed a swan who had lost its mate – oh, I was bawling by the end of the program. Swans really mourn.

  • JoAnne

    I’m with Jennifer all the way. On both the interpretation and the invitations.

  • Carl Brannen

    Imagine that it’s 5000 years ago. Two dead. The tribe has a choice. They can leave the bodies lying around and then kick their dogs when they bring back pieces, or they can bury them. Not surprisingly, they decide on a burial.

    Suppose you’re the low man on the totem pole, so you’re the one that has to do the hard work. Do you dig two holes to give them a Christian burial 3000 years before Christ? Or do you economize by digging one slightly larger hole? What kind of tool are you going to use to dig that hole? Sears and Roebuck won’t sell you a spade.

    One of the advantages of modern times is that we use machines to dig our graves. That’s why we don’t have to fold your legs in order to cram you into a hole that is too small for one, much less two. (Take another good look at that picture and imagine the calluses you would end up with from digging a full size grave with a stick.)

    The chance that this pair are a “same sex” couple is in excess of 50% as there are many human activities that can result in more than one death at a time, and some of these are correlated by sex. Don’t be surprised when it turns out that these were two young warriors that died in the same battle.

  • Carl Brannen

    Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day!

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  • rootlesscosmo

    Marvell or no Marvell, this grave’s no longer a fine and private place.

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  • darthblade

    HUGGGGGGG !!!! xD

  • http://poooo victoria

    this is sooo cute were they actually buried like that or have two been placed side by side and they have fallen to the side.. however still cute though..


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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