In a Bollywood movie, Barfi, two disabled lovers die together – even death could not do them part. Such magical endings to love stories, you might think, are the stuff of movies. But at the site of an ancient civilization, Harappa, the skeletal remains of a couple have been found who archeologists believe died together and were buried together. Between 4500 and 2500 BC, the bodies of the couple, believed to be married, were placed carefully alongside each other in the burial site of the Harappans, one of the world's earliest civilizations.
Thousands of years later, in 2013, a team of Indian and South Korean researchers began digging work in the necropolis now located in Rakhigarhi – about 100 miles northwest of India's capital, New Delhi – in an effort to extract DNA from the bone remains, according to a story on CNN.com.
They discovered dozens of skeletons during the excavation process, which ended three years later. Their discoveries included the couple, the scientists said in a study published in the peer-reviewed ACB Journal of Anatomy. They believe this is the first Harappan couple confirmed to have been buried together.
"Observation revealed that they died at the same time and they were buried at the same time," said Vasant Shinde, the leader of the team of archeologists.
The skull of the man was found facing the body of his female partner. "They were intimately placed in the burial," Shinde said. "So we thought maybe they shared [a] very intimate relationship" and were probably husband and wife.
Shinde added that the couple must have been married "because, had they been in an illicit relationship, the community would not have [given] them a proper ceremonial burial."
But one major mystery remained: How did these Bronze Age lovebirds die at the same time? Did they perish in a plague? Killed in a ritual death? Or did the couple take their own lives?
The archeologists couldn't find any trace of disease, nor were there any injury marks to the skeletons that would have suggested they were killed. "Our guess is that probably they may have died of heart failure," Shinde said, before adding that this was just speculation.
Couple burials like the one in Rakhigarhi have long fascinated people and sparked fierce speculation, the scientists added. Mysteries remain.
But the larger project of understanding the social composition and the relationship between Harappan and the rest of the population of that time will continue.