SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

Ancient lovers found in Indian burial site mystify and intrigue archaeologists

Between 4500 and 2500 BC, the bodies of a couple, believed to be married, were placed carefully side by side...

Posted: Jan 10, 2019 11:29 AM
Updated: Jan 10, 2019 11:29 AM

Between 4500 and 2500 BC, the bodies of a couple, believed to be married, were placed carefully side by side in an ancient burial site of the Harappans, one of the world's earliest civilizations.

Thousands of years later, in 2013, a team of Indian and South Korean researchers began excavation work in the necropolis now located in Rakhigarhi -- around 100 miles northwest of India's capital, New Delhi -- in a bid to extract DNA from the skeletal remains.

Anthropology and archeology

Asia

Continents and regions

Deaths and fatalities

Humanities and social sciences

India

Society

South Asia

History and historical discoveries

They discovered dozens of skeletons during the excavation process, which ended three years later. Their finds included the couple, the scientists said in a study published in the peer-reviewed ACB Journal of Anatomy. They believe this is the first Harappan pair confirmed to have been buried together.

"Observation revealed that they died at the same time and they were buried at the same time," said Vasant Shinde, the archeologist who led the team.

The skull of the man was found facing the body of his female partner. "They were intimately placed in the burial," Shinde said. "So we thought maybe they shared [a] very intimate relationship" and were probably husband and wife.

Shrouded in history

Shinde added that the couple must have been married "because, had they been in an illicit relationship, the community would not have [given] them a proper ceremonial burial."

But one major mystery remained: How did these Bronze Age lovebirds die at the same time? Were they wiped out in a plague? Killed in a ritual death? Or did this star-crossed pair take their own lives?

The archeologists couldn't find any trace of disease, nor were there any injury marks to the skeletons that would have suggested they were killed. "Our guess is that probably they may have died of heart failure," Shinde said, before adding that this was just speculation.

In the paper, the scientists ruled out the possibility that the woman, believed to be in her early 20s, took her own life shortly after the death of her husband, who was between 35 and 40 years old.

"The couple's burial ... should not be considered to have been the outcome of any specific funeral customs commonly performed at that time," the study said, referring to a ritual in which a wife would kill herself after the death of her husband. "Rather, it is more plausible that two individuals died at or almost at the same time, and that therefore, they had been buried together in the same grave."

The researchers said more studies of Harappan graves are needed to solve the mystery, "as joint burials are important for inferring historical family structures and the broader society they represent."

Fascination and debate

Archaeologists also found pots in the grave, which would have contained food and water: grave offerings for the dead. One agate bead, "possibly a part of a necklace, was found near the right collar bone" of the male skeleton, they said.

Couple burials like the one in Rakhigarhi have long been a source of fascination and fierce speculation, the scientists added.

In 2007, archeologists excavating a Neolithic burial site in Italy found a couple locked in a tender embrace. It is still a matter of debate how the Lovers of Valdaro, as they came to be known, died.

The same is true of another case in Siberia, where the couple were found facing each other and holding hands.

For now, the team in India will continue extracting DNA from their finds. "Our ultimate goal is to understand the social composition of [the] human population there" and the relationship between the Harappan and contemporary population, Shinde said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 452268

Reported Deaths: 6100
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin938131490
Ramsey40370746
Dakota33353349
Anoka31193366
Washington20363231
Stearns17995189
St. Louis13857245
Scott1209197
Wright11723106
Olmsted1068375
Sherburne825766
Carver700138
Clay655582
Rice618070
Kandiyohi556572
Blue Earth545933
Crow Wing487778
Otter Tail460967
Chisago456436
Benton422287
Winona393048
Douglas377266
Nobles373946
Mower370829
Goodhue352661
Polk330559
McLeod326747
Beltrami314048
Morrison313545
Lyon304138
Becker288039
Itasca286443
Isanti284242
Carlton282543
Steele278110
Pine269214
Freeborn251523
Todd232630
Nicollet227537
Brown216934
Mille Lacs214945
Le Sueur212816
Cass209424
Meeker200933
Waseca191916
Wabasha17343
Martin171426
Roseau166217
Hubbard150138
Redwood140827
Houston139714
Renville137940
Dodge13714
Chippewa132032
Cottonwood128418
Fillmore12576
Wadena120517
Rock111212
Aitkin109233
Sibley10917
Faribault108316
Watonwan10688
Pennington100716
Kanabec98818
Pipestone95923
Yellow Medicine94216
Murray9056
Jackson87110
Swift84318
Pope7435
Stevens7078
Marshall70315
Clearwater68714
Lake66015
Lac qui Parle65716
Wilkin6309
Koochiching60210
Lincoln4892
Big Stone4663
Unassigned43768
Grant4358
Norman4248
Mahnomen4147
Kittson37320
Red Lake3194
Traverse2583
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 309989

Reported Deaths: 4424
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46587464
Linn17979279
Scott15787171
Black Hawk14037243
Woodbury13093181
Johnson1224652
Dubuque11535159
Pottawattamie9111115
Dallas905972
Story877838
Webster471577
Cerro Gordo471472
Sioux459157
Clinton456167
Warren456139
Marshall429862
Buena Vista396130
Muscatine394978
Des Moines390043
Plymouth352470
Wapello348498
Jasper330159
Lee322632
Marion308152
Jones274250
Henry266131
Carroll258034
Bremer249348
Crawford233524
Boone222017
Washington222033
Benton212250
Mahaska197237
Jackson194331
Tama189959
Dickinson188329
Kossuth178544
Delaware175236
Clay171421
Wright166424
Fayette165024
Hamilton162030
Buchanan161624
Winneshiek159720
Harrison157962
Hardin156730
Cedar155419
Clayton153649
Butler150824
Page146315
Floyd140836
Cherokee139927
Mills138417
Lyon137333
Poweshiek134524
Hancock131424
Allamakee130230
Iowa127422
Calhoun12339
Madison123210
Grundy122128
Jefferson122025
Winnebago121529
Mitchell116637
Louisa115730
Cass114743
Chickasaw113512
Appanoose112040
Sac112015
Emmet111232
Union110723
Humboldt106419
Shelby104727
Guthrie104024
Franklin103218
Unassigned10050
Palo Alto91711
Montgomery88024
Keokuk86126
Howard85019
Monroe81919
Clarke8087
Pocahontas78111
Ida75830
Davis70021
Greene6977
Adair69520
Monona67118
Lucas66410
Osceola64611
Worth6154
Taylor5989
Fremont5246
Van Buren50115
Decatur4954
Ringgold44811
Audubon4208
Wayne41821
Adams2983
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Cloudy
16° wxIcon
Hi: 20° Lo: 1°
Feels Like: 4°
Mason City
Cloudy
17° wxIcon
Hi: 18° Lo: 4°
Feels Like: 4°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
16° wxIcon
Hi: 18° Lo: 0°
Feels Like: 1°
Austin
Cloudy
18° wxIcon
Hi: 19° Lo: 0°
Feels Like: 6°
Charles City
Cloudy
18° wxIcon
Hi: 18° Lo: 3°
Feels Like: 6°
Snow will continue into Sunday morning
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events