Religion: Relic Detective

Christendom is sown with the bones of saints—chips and splinters, shins and fingers, skulls and full skeletons—encased in rich reliquaries and venerated by the faithful. The delicate question of authenticity often rests only on pious tradition; one bone looks much like another, and who can say for sure?

If anyone can, it is Swedish Anthropologist Carl-Hermann HjortsjÖ. At Sweden's Lund University last week, he was getting ready to publish a paper that explained how he had used his anthropological know-how to make himself a relic detective. He began by identifying several sets of doubtful remains by correlating tradition with such data...

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