Were Italy’s ‘Lovers of Modena’ a gay couple?

italy lovers of modena
Photo: University of Bologna

Researchers have discovered that a pair of 1500-year-old remains dubbed the “Lovers of Modena” – because of their hand-holding – were both men.

The two skeletons (pictured above) date back to the 4-6th century AD. The remains were first discovered in Italy in 2009.


But at that time scientists could not determine the sex of the skeletons and assumed they were two lovers.

But University of Bologna researchers used a new technique, analysing the protein on tooth enamel, to reveal the pair’s sex.

The two adult males were intentionally buried hand-in-hand, researchers said. But their actual relationship remains a mystery.

They said it was “unlikely” the two skeletons were lovers, given attitudes at the time, but they could not rule it out.

Lead researcher Federico Lugli, from the University of Bologna, said the “Lovers of Modena” may have been siblings, cousins or soldiers who died together in battle.

“There are currently no other examples of this type,” Lugli said.

“Many tombs have been found in the past with couples holding hands. But in all cases there was a man and a woman.

“In late-ancient times it is unlikely that homosexual love could be recognised so clearly by the people who prepared the burial.

“What might have been the bond between the two individuals in the burial in Modena remains a mystery.”

But researchers said burial of the “Lovers of Modena” was unique and is a “unique representation of commitment between two men” during the period.

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