Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Heart-struck by an eternal embrace

They died young, probably during late adolescence. However by the looks of it, they were in love. Two 6,000-year-old prehistoric skeletons from the Neolithic period were found locked in an eternal embrace in Valdaro, near Verona, Italy, hidden from the eyes of humanity. It could be the oldest love story.

Verona is where Shakespeare set the star-crossed lover’s tale “Romeo and Juliet.” Incidentally, Verona is the same area where Giuseppe Verdi set the opera “Rigoletto,” the story of doomed lovers.

Archaeologists believe the find has more emotional than scientific value. The lovers were adolescents of the Neolithic age, a formative period in the evolutionary development of society. It was during the Neolithic era when religious, societal and emotional sentiments were formed, particularly relative to family and village. Thus scientists and anthropological experts assert that the lovers’ embrace with arms and legs leave little doubt that their final connection was born out of deep sentiment.

The remarkable story of the Lovers of Valdaro aligns with the aura of love. Although we compose music, write love songs, prose and love stories we hardly scratch the surface attempting to intellectualize love’s phenomenology. Subsequently we encapsulate its mystery in story and wonder. For example, the speculation over the prehistoric Lovers of Valdaro has intrigued the academic and scientific communities. Who were they? How did they die? You’d think by the way they were found they suffered the same fate of Romeo and Juliet.

Nearly every month of the year holds a celebration or observance to some ancient ritual or feast. But February, least favored by the gods, was in need of a special saint. Here was an unexpected opportunity to celebrate mythic love attempting to explain the attraction of the Lovers of Valdaro.

This scene depicting love’s intrigue is prone for a miracle. St. Valentine is there and takes tenderness to heart and soothes sadness with generous applications of hope springing eternal. The patron saint of love is human and understands sadness and sorrow associated with loneliness. He brings hope. Who else is best skilled to ease our loneliness? St. Valentine, and his first sergeant, Cupid, cardiac specialist extraordinaire, effortlessly mends those stinging moments of longing. Whatever we can’t understand we drown in mythology.

The fable of love associated by arrows typically capable of piercing hearts with a secret potion could not be any more dramatic. Heartache mended by a box of chocolate! But then, how else can our bleeding hearts survive? How could we possibly understand the message given to us by the Lovers of Valdaro? Anything less dramatic would not do justice to the mystery of love. If the world exists relative to whether love is gained or lost, it can only be through the alchemy of mythic characters who show no fear for the gentlest and strongest of all emotions, those of the heart.

What I find remarkable is that when Shakespeare’s characters Romeo and Juliet walked the countryside of Verona, the Lovers of Valdaro had been cemented in their embrace for almost 5,500 years. Six thousand years ago our evolution as cognitive beings was suspect at best. Nevertheless people felt compelled to be together. I appreciate the beautiful myths that surround this mystery; they’re all different, yet their message is the same.

I remain fixated by the last embrace of the Lovers of Valdaro. Their deathlike grip sheds little understanding relative to the mystery of love. However if you observe them you’ll realize that love is eternal and innate in humanity, and if we should find love we are blessed. Happy Valentine’s Day!


JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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