September 18, 2014
New research says the notorious Donner Party ate the family dog. But they may have left each other alone at one Sierra campsite during the deadly winter of 1846 and 1847.
Kelly Dixon is an assistant professor of anthropology at the
University of Montana, formerly at the University of Nevada, Reno.
She thinks the study has the potential to revise the way people
look at the Donner Party.
She says there's no physical evidence members of the Donner
family themselves resorted to the ultimate survival tactic that
became synonymous with their name for a century and a half.
The findings don't necessarily disprove the accounts of
cannibalism told by rescuers and survivors stranded in a fierce
winter storm in the mountains southwest of Reno and north of
But the absence of any cooked human bones among the thousands of
fragments of bones of livestock and wildlife at the Alder Creek
site suggest Donner family members may not have succumbed to the
desperate temptation to resort to cannibalism.
That may not be the case at another site. But it was the Donners
who stayed at Alder Creek.
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