The Lovers of Valdaro – A Double Burial From Neolithic Italy

The Lovers of Valdaro, or Valdaro Lovers, are two 6,000-year-old skeletons discovered in a Neolithic tomb near Valdaro in Mantua, Italy, in 2007. Their name comes from the fact that they appear to be locked in an embrace. The burial dates to the Neolithic period, which lasted from 10,000 – 4,500 BCE.

The Lovers of Valdaro
The two lovers of Valdaro found in a permanent embrace.

This burial is unique because amongst the thirty graves excavated, they were the only double burial. Double burials were highly uncommon during the Neolithic period in general. The Valdaro Lovers are just two out of only a couple of similar burials discovered. The Alepotrypa Cave in Greece is one of the few that come to mind.

Archaeologists have found no evidence of a Neolithic settlement nearby, but the region held many small waterways along with the River Po, which would have made it perfect for fishing, hunting, and agriculture. These factors lead many to believe that a large, highly developed community lived in the region.

Scientists estimate that the couple was about 5’2″ (157 cm) tall and around 20 years old when they died. Despite their young age, the couple appeared to have died of natural causes. There’s nothing to indicate that they died violently. Their bones are mostly intact and show no sign of serious trauma. 

Several flint tools and blades were buried alongside them, most likely grave goods or some of their possessions buried with them before they died.

The Valdaro Lovers
Zoomed out view of the lovers

We still don’t know a lot about the two lovers beyond this. In general, any archaeological site is hard to excavate and often even harder to learn from. Carbon dating and DNA testing are slow, and the couple is locked in a permanent embrace, making things harder.  

This burial’s uniqueness led the head archaeologist Elena Maria Menotti not to separate the skeletons. Instead, the team carefully excavated the two lovers as a single block of earth and shipped them in a wooden box to the Musei Civici in Como in a wooden box. 

Since 2011, the two skeletons have been proudly displayed in Mantua’s Archaeological Museum. You may also know Mantua from Shakespeare’s tale of two star-crossed lovers. It’s where Romeo is sent after he kills Tybalt Capulet.

If you ever find yourself in Mantua, Italy and you’re feeling a little romantic, you should stop by and say hello to the Lovers of Valdaro. 

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