Tahoe Nugget #42:
Donner Party: Bones of Contention
As promised in Nugget #37, an expanded review of the recent Donner Party archeology and some of the results can be viewed here.
This brief article shares some of the new physical evidence that both confirms severe hardship and deprivation for the snowbound
pioneers during the winter of 1847, while also revealing that the lack of food availability may not have been as bad at Alder Creek as previously assumed. One scientist indicates that knife markings on some of the
analyzed bone fragments suggest "extreme desperation and starvation among the group." In contrast, the variety of animal bones discovered in an unearthed hearth at the Alder Creek campsite does suggest
that the stranded emigrants there may have had more food to eat than previously thought.
The saga of the Donner Party is seemingly unending. Research scientists and historians that continue to attempt to
solve its persistent mysteries feed the fire of this iconic pioneer epic. Rarely do historical events sustain this kind of excitement in a culture choking on media sound bites and a short attention span. A review of
the Donner Party symposium itself and the dozen speakers who presented their own specialized research will be posted in the near future. Stay tuned.
BTW, if you're wondering where I took the photos of the
human skeletons (and you should be), they are located on the island of Crete. The skeletons are more than 3,000 years old and were resting comfortably in an ancient Minoan crypt. At least they were in 1982.