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Spooky, Grisly Find Near Reno, Nevada
Archaeologists think they have located the camp site used by the Donner Party more than 150 years ago. The 81 pioneers, who were headed to California in a wagon train, took an untested short cut and found themselves trapped in the Sierra Nevada range during the brutal winter of 1846-1847. Legend has it they resorted to cannibalism when they could no longer hunt or fish. Only half of the group survived. Are the grisly tales really true? This latest find may provide the first physical evidence that would conclusively prove whether or not the desperate pioneers ate human beings to stay alive, reports The Associated Press.
Two pieces of evidence have been unearthed at the site in Alder Creek, located about 30 miles west of Reno, Nevada. The first is the campfire pit, which was found using ground-penetrating radar. The second is a bone fragment of a large mammal that contains the butcher marks of an ax. If the bone proves to be human, it would be the first bit of physical evidence of cannibalism linked to the Donner Party, reports the Reno-Gazette Journal. In addition, they plan to do DNA testing on the bone to see if the remains can be linked to the descendants of the Donner family survivors.
"This is a very exciting find," Frankye Craig, a Donner Party researcher in Reno, told AP. "Even though some people don't think that's the Donner campsite, Donner descendants have been going there since the 1960s, and they always thought it was the place. To them, Alder Creek is sacred ground, and the new research seems to prove that. I hope it triggers more investigation." Also found at the site were a link from a woman's gold chain, bits of bottles and plates, and other artifacts dating from the 1840s.