Lovers of Modena skeletons found testing tooth enamel protein.
A skeleton couple who were discovered holding hands in a tomb in Italy were both men, researchers have revealed.
The sex of the pair, known as the Lovers of Modena, could not be determined when they were unearthed in 2009 because they were so badly preserved.
But using a new technique, researchers were able to test the protein on tooth enamel to reveal the 4-6th Century AD skeletons were male.
The relationship between the pair remains a mystery, however researchers say the couple were buried hand-in-hand on purpose.
Some suggest the skeletons – who were of similar age – could be related, such as brothers or cousins.
Other researchers claim they could have been soldiers who died in battle and the burial site was a war cemetery.
This is the first time two men have been found buried holding hands, researchers at at the University of Bologna revealed in Nature journal.
It is not known if the pair were homosexual, however it is unlikely that the nature of their relationship would be recognised so clearly by the people who prepared the burial.
‘At present there are no other burials of this type,’ Study author Federico Lugli told Italy’s Rai news site.
‘In the past several graves were found with pairs of individuals laid hand in hand, but in all cases it was a man and a woman. What was the link between the two individuals of the Modena burial, instead, remains for the moment a mystery’.
The new discovery could now help researchers understand ancient funeral practices in Italy.