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February 9, 2018

The Mysterious Hasanlu Lovers and Their 2800-Year Old Kiss

The Hasanlu Lovers are human remains found by a team from the University of Pennsylvania led by Robert Dyson at the Teppe Hasanlu archaeological site, located in the Solduz Valley in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran, in 1972. The image depicts two human skeletons, seemingly in an embrace, which earned the photograph its title Hasanlu Lovers or The 2800 Years Old Kiss.

‘The Lovers’ from 1972 season at Hasanlu.

Found together in a bin of plaster covered mudbrick during excavations in 1972, these intertwined skeletons date to the destruction of Hasanlu (ca. 800 BCE). The evocative position in which they were found has led to speculation about their identities and relationship to each other. The two are close together facing each other. The skeleton on the left appears to be reaching out its right hand to touch the face of the skeleton on the right. They both have their arms around each other. Curiously, there were no objects found with these individuals with the exception of a stone slab in the bin that is under their heads. Both skeletons have evidence of trauma on their bodies sustained at or around the time of their death.

Previously on display at the Penn Museum from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s, the genders of the two skeletons have been the subject of much debate. Despite many researchers suggesting that the remains of both individuals belong to males, there are as many scientists who have concluded that the individual on the left was a female. According to Penn Museum, the physical characteristics for sex determination are less clear of the individual on the left, as it possesses some traits that are masculine in form and others that are more feminine or neutral. The individual on the left – whose sex isn’t defined with certainty – was around 30–35 years old at the time of death, while the individual on the right is believed to have been a young male of around 20-22 years of age.

How the two came to be in the bin is unknown, but perhaps they were hiding there as a place of refuge during the final sacking of Hasanlu. They along with the other individuals at the site represent poignant tales of the darker side of human behavior: destruction, warfare, and interpersonal violence.

To this day, nobody knows the real story of the Hasanlu Lovers. Only that they once lived and loved each other and that even death cannot keep them part. The Hasanlu skeletal material is the subject of many research questions. Dozens of scholars and students from all over the world come to the Penn Museum to study the collection.

(via Penn Museum)


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