Analysis Finally Clears Donner Party of Rumored Cannibalism

No human bones found in hearth at campsite where group was trapped by snowstorm in 1846

MONDAY, April 19, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- There's no evidence of cannibalism at the Donner Party campsite, say researchers who analyzed remains from the site at Alder Creek in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

The 84 members of the Donner Party were trapped there by a snowstorm in the winter of 1846-1847, and it has long been alleged that the 47 survivors resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.

However, this latest examination of bones excavated from a hearth at the campsite found no human remains. The bones in the hearth came from cattle, deer, horses and dogs.

The study findings, presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, N.M., will be published in the July issue of the journal American Antiquity.

Newspapers were primarily responsible for promoting the allegations of cannibalism, which were fiercely denied by the Donner Party survivors.

More information

The U.S. Library of Congress has more about the Donner Party.

SOURCE: Appalachian State University, news release, April 15, 2010
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