The discovery of a couple buried together in the Harappan site of Rakhigarhi has brought forth the suggestion that the institution of marriage developed in the Indus Valley civilisation. This could be an excessive claim, but it is reasonable to posit that the culture appreciated the bonds of romantic love. And for archaeologists, the find makes up for the frustration raised by other finds of couples buried together, where the gender of the remains found is not incontrovertibly established.
The skeletons found in Rakhigarhi are those of a man aged about 38 and a woman aged about 25, and their gender is clearly established. This was not the case with their predecessors — couples whose skeletons were discovered earlier, but researchers depended only on the anatomy of the pelvic bones, which is not a clinching indicator. Most famous are the Hasanlu Lovers, intertwined skeletons discovered in 1972 in Iran. Their grave was hailed as a strong contender with the Taj Mahal as a monument to eternal love. However, it turned out that the female skeleton could actually be male, and anyway, the grave is a monument to war rather than love. Its inmates were killed in the sack of the citadel of Hasanu, about 800 BCE.
The Neolithic Lovers of Valdaro, discovered near Mantua in 2007, are the oldest couple known at 6,000 years, but their gender is open to speculation, too. The couple at Rakhigarhi, in Haryana, is the first find of a twinned burial where the skeletons are clearly male and female. It would be wonderful to be able to take it at face value, but prehistory is the land of maybes. Maybe they were indeed lovers, and maybe they were even married. But there’s no ruling out the possibility that they were just good friends. Or, an aunt and her nephew.