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Possible Seventeenth-Century Massacre Site Found in Alaska

Monday, April 22, 2019

Alaska Nunalleq Burned PointsABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—Live Science reports that researchers led by Rick Knecht and Charlotta Hillerdal of the University of Aberdeen have uncovered evidence of a massacre at a well-preserved Yup’ik village site in southwestern Alaska, where more than 60,000 artifacts, including dolls, figurines, wooden dance masks, and grass baskets have also been recovered from the permafrost. Some of the 28 people whose remains were discovered in a large defensive complex at the town of Agaligmiut, which is now often called Nunalleq, had been tied with grass rope before being killed, Knecht said. Most of the victims were women, children, and older men. “They were face down and some of them had holes in the back of their skulls from [what] looks like a spear or an arrow.” The complex in which the bodies were found was burned down sometime between A.D. 1652 and 1677, a period known in Yup’ik oral tradition for a conflict that began over an injury to a boy during a game of darts and escalated into the “bow and arrow wars.” “There’s a number of different tales,” Knecht explained. “What we do know is that the bow and arrow wars were during a period of time [called] the Little Ice Age, where it went from quite a bit warmer than it is now to quite a bit colder in a very short period of time.” The change in climate may have caused a food shortage that triggered the hostilities, he added. To read in-depth about previous excavations at Nunalleq, go to “Cultural Revival.”

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