700 Years of Togetherness: Skeletons Still Holding Hands

Image: Paired skeletons
These 700-year-old skeletons were found in an English cemetery holding hands.ULAS

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/ Source: Live Science

The skeletal remains of two lovebirds have been uncovered after being locked in a romantic embrace for the past 700 years.

Archaeologists found the couple holding hands in an earthen grave during the excavation of a "lost" chapel in Leicestershire, England, researchers reported Thursday.

"We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester, where a couple has been buried together in a single grave," Vicki Score, University of Leicester Archaeological Services project manager, said in a statement.

These 700-year-old skeletons were found in an English cemetery holding hands.ULAS

Double graves are not that unusual. But it's surprising that the two bodies were buried at the so-called "lost" Chapel of St. Morrell, only recently discovered by a local historian and a team of researchers, instead of at the local church. [8 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]

"The main question we find ourselves asking is, why were they buried up there? There is a perfectly good church in Hallaton," Score said. "This leads us to wonder if the chapel could have served as some sort of special place of burial at the time."

For example, the site may have served as a place of pilgrimage in Hallaton, a village in east Leicestershire, during the 14th century, the researchers said. Or the couple may have been buried at the Chapel of St. Morrell and not in the main church because they were criminals, foreigners or diseased.

Archaeologists and volunteers take notes during the excavation of the Chapel of St. Morrell and its cemetery.ULAS

ULAS archaeologists and local volunteers have spent the past four years uncovering the chapel. The team has found evidence that the use of the hillside site extends back to Roman times, more than 2,000 years ago. A square ditch at the site indicates that the hilltop may have once held a Roman temple. The team also found an Iron Age shrine with thousands of coins and silver artifacts, such as a Roman cavalry helmet.

Archaeologists used radiocarbon dating to determine that 11 skeletons so far excavated from the site date back to the 14th century.

This is a condensed version of a report from LiveScience. Read the full report. Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.