Friday, April 16, 2010
You Mean They Ate Each Other Up?
Probably not, Danny! An archaeological team investigating the winter camp of the Donner Party subjected the bones that the settlers discarded to intense microscopic scrutiny and determined that none of them were from human beings. Instead, the survivors ate cattle which died of starvation, horses brought by one of the relief parties, deer (which they were able to hunt despite 30 feet of snow), and one family's pet dog. They also tried to preserve "civilized" decorum during the winter; their midden includes pieces of slate, used for children's school lessons, and of chinaware, used for their meager meals of boot-and-bone soup. The survivors themselves denied that they had resorted to cannibalism, and no-one was ever able to prove the charge. The conventional story of the Donner Party, however appealing it may be (even to the extent of inspiring an excellent Western/horror movie), appears, like so much of the West's history, to have been a myth.