THE 5,000-year-old remains of a "Romeo and Juliet" couple have been unearthed next to the skeletons of two sacrificed horses in Kazakhstan.

Their bones were found lying side by side in an ancient grave alongside metal spearheads, precious stones and ceramic pottery in the Karaganda region.

Their bones look worn but it's clear both lovers are lying on their sides and almost locked in an eternal embrace.

Archaeologists believe the man, who was buried with arrows and metal dagger, may have been an elite Bronze Age charioteer.

Horses commonly featured in the burial of great Kazakh warriors in the bronze age, according to academic paper Horses For The Dead.

The animals were hugely symbolic to the country and influenced everything from culture and art to cuisine.

They were also a sign of military power and prestige, featuring "heavily" in the burial of "high status warriors".

The report said: "It appears that horse sacrifice was a key component of high status burials at this time."

It also noted men had "richer graves" with military objects while women were more commonly buried with "ceramics, needles and ornaments".

Dr Igor Kukushkin, who headed the excavation, said several unanswered questions remain about who the lovers were.

It is unknown whether the couple died together or whether one took their own life to be buried with their beloved.

Dr Kukushkin said the couple may even have chosen to remain lovers after death, adding "Such coupled burials are not a rarity in our area.

"But the question of how the second person joined the deceased is still very much in the air.

"Was the woman or the man killed to make sure they followed their other half? Was this man and woman a husband and wife?

"Or was the couple made of a man and a woman who were not related, but died around the same time?

"Our initial research on these skeletons showed no visible harm done to the people.

"But more detailed work should help clarify the cause of their deaths. We can be pretty certain both horses were killed.

"The horses lie on their sides, back to back. This is a rare position which is almost identical to famous rock drawings of chariots."

Horses have been central to several "warrior cultures" throughout history.

Ancient Thracians loved them so much that they took their horses and chariots into the afterlife.

A tomb discovered in Bulgaria in 2013 showed them standing upright "as if they were still moving", according to the Archaeology website.

The report suggested the animals belonged to the Getae, one of the most powerful Thracian tribes.

Archeologist Viktor Novozhenov, from Karaganda State University, said they also found spearheads buried with the lovers.

He added: "Such a rare find of such important details of chariot harness... untouched by grave robbers for 5,000 years is great luck for researchers."

They also discovered a stone arrowhead and a gold-plated pendant together with ceramic pottery.