When the archaeologist Vittorio Spinazzola saw the cast of the two intertwined bodies (just found in the house of the Criptoporticus of Pompeii) he had no doubt. It was a man and a woman, hugged together in their last moment of life. Someone christened them "lovers."
A year later, Spinazzola, archaeologist and regent of the ruins, was sent away because his sympathies were not really directed towards Mussolini. The "Lovers" instead remained there, with mixed success, rarely shown. However, in people’s imagination, they remained the most fascinating cast of the history of Pompeii, a symbol of love and passion. For decades, the casts were closed in storage and have never been studied. For a "Christian Pietas" because as explained by the Superintendent Massimo Osanna in 2015, "they have always represented the bodies of dead people and not only archaeological remains". It was the month of May, a few days before the exhibition "Kidnapped to Death” which took place in a large wooden pyramid set up in the arena of the Amphitheater. A historic day, not only an exhibition. The plaster that hid bones, clothing fibers, buckles, and common objects that Pompeiians normally wore in 79 AD, could be studied. CAT, DNA tests, spectroscopy and all the most sophisticated instruments that modern medicine has were used. All this effort for a man and a woman of two thousand years ago.
Some casts were even treated with an IV because they were yielding to time. Ironically it was happening to the most recent ones, those found in the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century. They realized that poor quality plaster had been used. Much better plaster was used by Giuseppe Fiorelli, the man who invented the casts in 1863, that’s why his plaster cast were intact. Obviously, the exhibition brought the “Lovers” before the eyes of the people. However, Mr. Osanna, with scientific rigor, brought the truth to which Spinazzola believed in. They were not a man and a woman but two women, perhaps a mother with her daughter. Love “kidnapped to death" was not the passion of two lovers but a mother’s desperate hug on the last attempt to save her daughter.
And yet there's another twist. "Pompeii never ceases to amaze. I always imagined that it was a hug between two women. But CAT and DNA have revealed that they are men", said the superintendent Massimo Osanna. And they are not father and son. According to the results of the scientific tests, they are two boys aged 18 and 20 years.
"We cannot say - says Mr. Osanna - that the two characters were lovers. However, it can be assumed, but it is difficult to know for sure”. The analysis does show that the eighteen-year old cast belongs to a male, and probably so for the twenty-year old. However, on the oldest there is no certainty, because the DNA after two thousand years is very spoiled. Their love is the only thing that resists time.
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Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.