Love and Romance in Archaeology
Via: 1950s Unlimited
We all love a little romance in love. Even if you are an adamantly staunch ‘manly-man’ or a girl who could do with a little hand-holding here and there, but who both really can’t stand any public displays of affection. Love is an impossibly beautiful feeling that you share with someone that can never be forced and blossoms naturally, and by adding a little romance to an aged wine it can grow to be a brilliant flower that stands as a testament to an old love.
Archaeology is full of love and romance in both the people that dig old people’s rubbish for a living and the artifacts that they uncover. It is an age-old story as ancient as the human race itself that love and romance are a natural part of what it means to be human. So today we are going to share just a little love letter to this fact with some dusty ol’ examples of this in archaeology.
The 2,800-Year-Old Kiss
The Hasanlu Lovers are a pair of 2,800-year-old skeletons excavated from a site in Northern Iran in the 1970s. Archaeologists interpret them as a pair who were fleeing from their home from a fire that occurred around 800 BC, however, they were not quick enough to escape the flames and so found themselves deep in a hole. They appear to be lying close to each other in an embrace as one looks at the other and delivers a kiss just before they died.
We have perhaps some of the oldest documented lovers embracing and pointing their faces close to each other nose-to-nose. This is the Lovers of Valdaro, some 6,000-year-old burial of a pair of young adults who seem unable to take their eyes off each other even in death! They were excavated from an Italian neolithic tomb in 2007 and buried with minimal grave goods.
Via: CBS News
It is fairly common for archaeologists to uncover the bones of people, and even more so for there to be more than one occupant in a burial site. But rarely do we have not just two lovers, but two male lovers in a tight embrace at the moment of burial. This is the case with The Lovers of Modena who were uncovered in Italy in 2009 at a larger 600 AD war burial site. There is evidence of death by blunt-force trauma to the back of the heads, but their burial was still carefully laid out to acknowledge their partnership in life and death.
Snap Shots of Love
A lot of pottery and modern-day pieces often depict romantic scenes of love and romance between two people. This find above was excavated in London and is part of the Museum of London's collection of finds from the early 19 century. This ceramic piece is made of porcelain and came from a well-off person’s estate depicting a pattern of a lady and a man.
We have the handsome man and lovely washerwoman in a rural scene as he hands her over the largest rose from his collection. How romantic! As you can see I made some of that story up, but that's what's great about archaeology sometimes. You see something with no context and turn it into a love story for the ages!
Historical Heart of Love
The symbol of the heart in archaeology dates back thousands of years and is found in some of the oldest civilizations. It has always been linked to the ideas of love and romance between two people. In Medieval times especially, hearts were shaped into offerings as gifts between those they loved. And like with a text message, some would have love poems on them or a secret exchange of words that only the receiver was meant to ever see.
Even in death hearts were an important symbol to show the association with love, which is seen in the urn depicted above which was excavated from a medieval convent in Rennes, France. It held the mummified heart of Toussaint Perrien, Knight of Brefeillac. Whoever buried him obviously love him very much and wanted to preserve the organ associated with pure feelings of love and care.
The First Love Poem
The oldest love poem was excavated in Nippur, Southern Iraq, once the territory of a great Sumerian civilization that existed 4,000 years ago. This tablet is written in the oldest written language, Cuneiform, in ancient Sumerians, composed by a passionate lover of the then king. It has been called ‘The Love Song for Shu-Sin’ and talks about a daring ballad where a priestess confesses her love for a king, and the poem suggests a recreation of it.
Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is you beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.
Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savoury than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savoury than honey.
Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.
Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,
Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.
You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil's heart,
Give my pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay (your) hand on it,
Bring (your) hand over like a gishban-garment,
Cup (your) hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment
Romance in Archaeology
We have really touched the surface when it comes to romance and love in archaeology and so this will likely be the first of a series of posts looking at the realms of this subject. But looking at artifacts, we find many stories of romance and love from archaeologists themselves!
You will know Agatha Christie for her striking crime thrillers and murder mysteries, but did you know she was married to an archaeologist? When Christie was visiting an archaeological site in Ur, Baghdad in the 1920s she ran into the man who would become the love of her life!
They would marry in 1930 and begin a long marriage of archaeological adventures around the world until her death in 1976. She wrote a book about her adventures as a crime writer attending archaeological digs in the Middle East called ‘Come, tell me how You Live’. Christie is a natural writer who creates a great picture of what the mid-1900s archaeological practice was like in the field and her fictional works helped fuel a generation of romantic love for the discipline.
Archaeology might be all dirt and rubbish, but it can also be romantic and full of love in both the artifacts that are uncovered and the archaeologists that dig them up. This was just a snippit of historical love to show that love and romance are age-old concepts in human partnerships between lovers and marriages.If you want to learn more about archaeology of the history of rings you should sub to our blog or check out some of our articles including The Amazing Rings Found in Archaeological Digs – Thoru