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April 2, 2013

Bones from time of Christ reveal a brutal history

(Continued)

Holst said the team will try to determine where the Alken bog soldiers came from by comparing their genetic signatures and isotope concentrations to those of human remains and geographical features elsewhere.

Scholars' traditional theory about burying the weapons is one of contrived scarcity: The chieftains got rid of enemy equipment because they wanted to control trade and imports, and they did so by keeping themselves at the center of the arms traffic.

Recently, however, archaeologists have suggested there is no reason to impute modern economic motives to ancient behavior. Perhaps the warlords threw enemies and their gear into the bog simply because their religion required it. "In a system like this, it wasn't important to be decked out in gold and jewels," Thurston said. "If you were supposed to make offerings, you made offerings."

Gugliotta, a former national reporter for The Washington Post, is an author and freelance science writer living outside New York.

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