The Neolithic Lovers of Valdaro

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The 2007 Discovery of the Neolithic Double Burial of Valdaro

emilia-romagna region italy

The Lovers of Valdaro, also referred to as the Lovers of Mantua, are a pair of Neolithic skeletons discovered in 2007 near Valdaro, close to Mantua, Italy. This significant archaeological find was made during excavations conducted by the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Lombardy, as part of a broader investigation of a Roman villa in the area of San Giorgio Bigarello.

The skeletons are a rare example of a late Neolithic double burial, dating back approximately 5,500 years. In this case, the skeletons of a young man and woman, found in a close embrace, have become a symbolic image of the National Archaeological Museum of Mantua.

The two skeletons were found facing each other, with their arms and legs intertwined, creating the appearance of an embrace. This positioning is particularly rare, especially considering the presence of two individuals of the opposite sex. The skeleton on the left is that of a woman, aged between 16 and 20 years, while the skeleton on the right is that of a man, aged between 18 and 22 years.

The extraordinary nature of their position, with the bodies oriented in the same direction rather than laid side by side, has made the Lovers of Valdaro famous. This positioning resulted from the decomposition of the cloths that initially wrapped them. Over time, the skeletons, once separated, came to overlap and appear as if they are almost joined.

Consistent with prehistoric burial practices in Northern Italy, the two bodies were found in a crouched position, accompanied by grave goods typically associated with male burials. These included flint tools such as arrowheads and a blade, possibly a dagger.

Discovery and Public Reaction

The discovery was announced in February 2007, coinciding with the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, which heightened public and media interest globally. The imagery of the two skeletons symbolized eternal love, leading to widespread dissemination of their photos across various media platforms. In the months following the discovery, a similar burial was uncovered in Diyarbakır Province, Turkey, featuring another pair of skeletons buried in a similar manner.

From the outset, there was a strong desire to find a permanent exhibition space for the Lovers of Valdaro. This was seen as a way to promote museum tourism in Mantua, paralleling the success of the Ötzi the Iceman exhibit in Bolzano. The skeletons were occasionally displayed at special events, such as the 2011 Festivaletteratura in Mantua, where they attracted considerable attention.

After seven years, on April 11, 2014, the Lovers of Valdaro were permanently installed in a crystal case at the National Archaeological Museum of Mantua. This installation allowed for public viewing and academic study, providing a stable home for the famous skeletons. Their story, often likened to a prehistoric Romeo and Juliet, continues to captivate the public and contribute to the cultural heritage of Mantua.

Featured image: Wikimedia

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