Archaeologists in China have discovered a rare double burial, or “lovers’ tomb,” featuring the skeletons of a man and woman […]
Archaeologists in China have discovered a rare double burial, or “lovers’ tomb,” featuring the skeletons of a man and woman locked in an eternal embrace
Though the grave is 1,500 years old, she still wears a plain silver band on her ring finger.
“The message was clear—husband and wife lay together, embracing each other for eternal love during the afterlife,” a group of ten scholars wrote in a study published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. “This joint burial could be direct evidence of a full display of love and the importance of the rings in love.”
Archaeologists discovered the burial in June 2020 during the excavation of a cemetery that had been exposed during construction work in Shanxi province.
The couple likely lived during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534), a politically turbulent time. Buddhism was spreading rapidly, with cultural diffusion helping shape ideas about death and the afterlife.
“This discovery is a unique display of the human emotion of love in a burial,” Qun Zhang, an associate professor at the Institute of Anthropology at Xiamen University, told the South China Morning Post. “[It] offer[s] a rare glimpse of concepts of love, life, death, and the afterlife in northern China during a time of intense cultural and ethnic exchange.”
Researchers had a few ideas about how the couple ended up in the same grave. It’s unlikely the lovers died at the same time from violence, disease or poisoning, as there is no evidence yet of any of these things. Perhaps the husband died first and the woman sacrificed herself so that they could be buried together, the researchers said. It’s also possible that the woman died first and the husband sacrificed himself; however, this is less likely, as the woman appears to have been in better health than her partner.