• A restorer works on a petrified victim of the eruption of Vesuvius volcano in 79 BC. (MARIO LAPORTA/AFP/Getty Images.)Source: MARIO LAPORTA/AFP/Getty Images.
Researchers say there's no way of knowing if the two men were homosexual partners, but the "hypothesis cannot be dismissed".
Chloe Sargeant

10 Apr 2017 - 1:11 PM  UPDATED 10 Apr 2017 - 1:11 PM

'The Two Maidens' of Pompeii are well-known - the everlasting petrified embrace of two doomed people in their final moments, as the molten rock and ash erupted from Mount Vesuvius in Italy nearly 2,000 years ago.

The two bodies are positioned in what seems to be a loving embrace - one has its head laying on the other's chest, and they also appear to be holding hands. 

Since their discovery, it's been assumed that the bodies were two women. However, tests have now discovered that the embracing couple are actually men. Extensive anthropological testing on the bodies' teeth and bones showed that one of the men was 18 years old at the time of his death, and the other was approximately 20.

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"Pompeii never ceases to amaze," said Massimo Osanna, superintendent of the Pompeii archaeological site. "We always imagined that it was an embrace between women. But a CAT scan and DNA have revealed that they are men."

While the true nature of the relationship between the men can obviously never be known, researchers have confirmed that the two men were not relatives, and say that the possibility of homosexual sexual relationship "cannot be dismissed".

"You can’t say for sure that the two were lovers. But considering their position, you can make that hypothesis. It is difficult to say with certainty. The fact that they were lovers is a hypothesis that cannot be dismissed," Osanne told The Telegraph.

"The fact that they were lovers is a hypothesis that cannot be dismissed," says Superintendent of the Pompeii archaeological site, Massimo Osanna.

"When this discovery was made, that they were not two young girls, some scholars suggested there could have been an emotional connection between the pair. But we are talking about a hypothesis that can never be verified. What is certain is that the two parties were not relatives, neither brothers, nor a father and son," said Professor Stefano Vanacore - who led the Pompeii research team - told The Telegraph.

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For the past two years, researchers and restorers have been working carefully on the preserved plaster casts of 86 of the victims of the tragic event. 

The disaster of Pompeii occurred in 79 AD: Mount Vesuvius violently erupted, and a fast-moving avalanche of hot ash, rock, and poisonous gas buried thousands of residents. It's thought that up to 2,000 people died in the devastating natural disaster.