Bodies of 2,000-year-plus old soldiers found remarkably preserved in Denmark peat bog
DNA analysis possible from remains of 200 slaughtered soldiers
A mass grave of slaughtered Iron Age warriors have been unearthed by
Danish archaeologists. The excavation will help provide new clues about
the bloody practices of Germanic tribes on the edge of the Roman Empire.
The Tolluwu Man was a related discovery of an ancient carcass preserved in peat moss, one that dated several hundred years before the birth of Christ.
"I guess we will end up with a scale that is much larger than the 200 that we have at present," Aarhus University archaeologist Mads Kahler Holst says.
"We have only touched upon a very small part of what we expect to be there ... We have not seen anything like this before in Denmark, but it is quite extraordinary even in a European perspective," Holst added.
According to Holst, cuts and slashes on the skeletons showed they had died violently. Many of the first examples were discovered in 2009, and some of the bodies were as young as 13 years of age. The identity of the bodies, in addition to those who killed them largely remains a mystery steeped in the corridors of time.
"That is one of the big mysteries ... We don't know if it is local or foreign - we would expect it to be local," Holst said.
"We think it is a sacrifice related to warfare and probably the defeated soldiers were killed and thrown into the lake," he said.
It's estimated that the bodies are from the beginning of the Roman Iron Age, although Roman armies never reached so far north.
"It was the time when the Roman Empire had its greatest expansion to the north," Holst said. Historians say that campaign by the Romans only got as far as modern day Germany, a few hundred kilometers to the south of the Danish site.
"This conflict could have been a consequence of the Roman expansion, its effect on the Germanic world," Holst said.
Holst says the discovery may shed fresh light on what happened in those centuries beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, and about the level of military organization at that time in the northern European area.
Similar discoveries of sacrificed warriors from a few hundred years earlier have been made at Celtic sites in France. The soggy conditions of the peat moss at Alken have delayed decomposition. The remains are so well-preserved that archaeologists will be able to analyze their DNA, which is a rare achievement in samples this old.
Preliminary DNA tests have been carried out at a laboratory on six teeth and two femur bones. It must be noted that the DNA of people who lived at that time would not normally differ from the DNA of today's Scandinavians. However, if differences are found, it could point to a foreign army from southern Europe, experts say.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Denmark, Germanic tribes, Roman Europe, archaeology, Iron Age
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