Category Archives: U.S.A

Spanish Armor Plate Discovered in North Carolina

Spanish Armor Plate Discovered in North Carolina, U.S.A

Spanish soldiers took over the Native city of Catwba, Joara, about 60 miles east of Asheville, on an excursion from Florida about 450 years ago.

Fort San Juan is the first known European settlement to be established in the south-east of the USA about fourteen years before the British came to Jamestown. In Appalachia, Spanish became the first European language.

The story of Spanish soldiers coming to Catawba is, like much of American colonial history, characterized by colonization and ethnocentrism.

David Moore, an archeology teacher at Warren Wilson College, said: “There’s this sense of who is the other,” For nearly three decades Moore has been the executive archeologist, who has been leading research and excavations at the Barry site. Fort San Juan was about the size of a modern-day basketball court. He says the remains of the structure are more intact than any other colonial fort in North America. 

The site of the Spanish army’s Fort San Juan near Morganton.

“In effect, it’s 100 percent intact. We have the entire outline of it,” Moore said. “Unfortunately, plowing over the years has destroyed the upper levels of it, but it’s still far more intact than any other Spanish colonial fort. “

When Spanish explorer Captain Juan Pardo and his men arrived in 1566, they declared the Catawba Indians, who didn’t speak their language, new subjects of the king. The Spaniards forced the natives to construct the soldier’s homes and provide them meals. While the two groups lived side-by-side, the relationship was fraught by mounting mistrust and resentment. 

“So this relationship of two groups understanding each other very poorly, trying to figure out what to do with the other was constantly in the air,” Moore said. 

The tension ultimately propelled the Catawba to force the Spanish army out, changing the course of American history.  The absence of the Spaniards allowed for  English colonists to move inland and take their place. It’s how the English language gained a foothold in the region. 

“That colonial experience continued to be detrimental for native peoples,” Moore said. “The effects of the slave trade, of diseases, and of the political, economic and social disruption of tribal groups that ended up collapsing a social and political system that had been in place for nearly a thousand years.” 

There’s one particular artifact Moore’s team found that offers a snapshot of the Spaniards’ suspicion — and superstition. 

“We found a small piece of scrap metal, almost square in shape, and about an inch and a half in diameter,” Moore said. They discovered it was a small plate of armor, the kind that was sewn into garments during the medieval period. It was placed vertically in the soil, next to a post in the framework of a Spanish soldier’s house. 

A vest lined with a jack of plate armor believed to be English or Scottish, from 1590.

Moore and his team were perplexed by the armor until one historian reached out offering multiple references in Medieval European literature. Metal objects were commonly placed in the frames of homes to fend off black magic.  

“A Spanish soldier had placed this in the building to ward off witches, especially because Indian women were feeding them,” Moore said. “Many people think of native peoples being uncivilized, but here we have modern Europeans employing this kind of folklore to ward off magic. 

That wasn’t lost on Catawba Indian Beckee Garris when she first learned about the Spaniard’s supernatural object. “I kind of laughed, because, in all cultures, there’s a bad person, or a particularly bad spirit, if you want to call it that,” Garris said. 

Garris is a storyteller. She also makes Catawba pottery, much like the fragments scattered across the archaeological site. Garris says she makes pots the same way her ancestors did 500 years ago — without a kiln and with clay harvested from the same spot.

“It not only touches my heart, but it also touches my soul that our buried history is coming to light again. We are learning about ourselves now as well about our past,” Garris said. “Before European contact, there was no written history. Everything was passed down orally, and you had to hide who you were because of prejudices and laws that were made by the government.”

David Moore shows WCU students a rendering of the Spanish fort during a visit to the excavation site in September.

Bringing visibility to these early American stories still is a work in progress. The English settlers’ arrival in Jamestown exactly 400 years ago is commonly seen as the beginning of European colonization in the US. 

“This is something that we struggle within the US. White folks are not the first folks to have been here,” Paul Worley, Western Carolina University associate professor of global literature, said. He recently took students from Latinx Studies composition and literature classes to the excavation site.  

“Given the current moment in the United States, I think it’s a fairly radical thing to go back and talk about these histories,” Worley said. “Both on the Native American side and both on the Spanish colonial side. Because these are both histories that are frequently denied or ignored altogether.”

Worley wants students to think about US history from a multicultural and multilingual perspective – to consider writings from Spanish explorers, Native Americans and enslaved Africans. And maybe, he says, resurrecting those narratives will reframe the retelling of America’s story, both past, and present. 

For the archaeologist, there are still lessons to be learned from the Joara-Fort San Juan site. “450 years ago this tragedy unfolds because people don’t acknowledge the humanness of each other. That’s certainly a lesson we’re still trying to learn today,” David Moore said.  

400 Million Year Old Hammer discovered In Texas The London

400 Million Year Old Hammer discovered In Texas The London

The inner handle underwent the carbonization process, the hammerhead was constructed with iron purity, and this is only possible with modern-day technology, according to research by the Metallurgical Institute of Columbia.

According to analysis, the head of the hammer consists of 97 pure iron, 2 percent chlorine, and 1 percent sulfur.

This curious artifact was discovered in the city of London, Texas, USA, in 1934. The hammer appeared embedded inside a rock and since its discovery, there have been many theories about its origin, and most importantly its incredible age.

So how did the hammer end up embedded inside the rock?

Well, for the hammer to finish inside the rock, it had to have been built before the rock was formed and that would be several million years ago according to Livescience.

After its discovery and due to all the questions the hammer raised, researchers decided to abandon the incredible discovery in the Somervell Museum, in Texas.

According to studies of the Metallurgical Institute of Columbia,  the inside handle underwent the process of carbonization, the head of the hammer was built with an iron purity only achievable with modern-day technology. According to analysis, the head of the hammer consists of 97 pure iron, 2 percent chlorine, and 1 percent sulfur.

Surprisingly researchers also found that the iron had undergone a process of purification and hardening, typical of metallurgy of the twentieth century.

According to analysis, the rock encasing of the hammer was dated to the Ordovician era, more than 400 million years ago.

The portion of stone surrounding the hammer-head also presented abnormalities, seeming to have merged with some type of sheath covering the hammer.

According to geologists, the slow process of petrification dates back hundreds of millions of years.

This has led several ufologists and ancient astronaut theorists to a quick deduction of the context of the incredible discovery leading them to assume not only that there was a human civilization before the historical process of petrification in Texas, but that this ancient civilization already possessed the necessary technology for the fabrication of a hammer with modern features.

Evidence suggesting that the iron from the hammer might have originated from a meteorite is not a possibility according to researchers.

The chemical analysis of the artifact also detected certain amounts of potassium, silicon, chlorine, calcium, and sulfur. Thus, this composition contradicts the hypothesis postulated that the hammer-head belonged to the fragment of a meteorite since the bodies of our solar system do not have that type of chemical composition.

Researchers also believe, that since the head of the hammer was found embedded into the rock, it suggests that the embedding process was performed under different atmospheric conditions to the current, different atmospheric pressure, more similar to those in the remote past.

Against the remote possibility that a meteorite with an extremely rare and bizarre chemical composition and exceptional morphology, got caught, in prehistoric times, onto a piece of wood just as the head of the discovered hammer imprisons its handle, some researchers and ancient astronaut theorists point toward the fact that our planet was inhabited in ancient times, by civilizations with advanced technical and technological capacity, of which today we only have legends and items like this one who were trapped in rock. 

Unfortunately, some scientists do not agree with the theory that an ancient civilization created the hammer, and claim that it was only a metallurgical technique that had been eventually abandoned.

This extraordinary artifact belongs to the list of many other mysterious objects that have been discovered across the globe, and just like the Russian “microchip” or the 300 million-year-old screw, this item has caused debate among researchers and historians who are divided into groups, supporting and denying the possibility that the human race is much older than previously thought.

Whether this artifact is indeed a hammer dating back hundreds of millions of years, is something that will fuel debate among supporters of the ancient astronaut theory and conventional archaeologists, who both have provided arguments explaining the origin and age of the hammer.

Oldest weapons ever discovered in North America pre-date Clovis

Researchers Uncover 15,500-Year-Old Weapons, The Earliest Ever Found In North America

A group of scientists in Texas has recently discovered North America’s oldest weapon ever found, and archeologists call into question the history of the early settlers of the continent.

The weapons are ancient spear points which date back 15,500 years. They are around three to four inches long and were excavated from the Debra L. Friedkin site located about 40 miles outside of Austin, T.X.

The researchers recently published their findings in the journal Science Advances, and these record-breaking weapons are raising new questions about the first groups to settle in North America, once believed to be the Clovis people.


“The findings expand our understanding of the earliest people to explore and settle North America,” Michael Waters, a distinguished professor of anthropology and director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M, said in a statement.

“The peopling of the Americas during the end of the last Ice Age was a complex process and this complexity is seen in their genetic record. Now we are starting to see this complexity mirrored in the archaeological record.”

These small weapons were made from stone and feature a triangular, lanceolate (leaf-shaped) point. Their fluted base allowed them to be easily attached to the end of a spear.

The new, pre-Clovis spear points discovered in Texas.

The weapons were found buried under several feet of sediment and amongst many Clovis and Folsom “projectile points.” The Clovis people date back between 13,000 to 12,700 years ago and the Folsom came after that.

Thus, for many years, the Clovis people were believed to be the first to venture into the continent, but these newly discovered spear points pre-date that group by thousands of years.

The researchers point out that stone tools from before the time of the Clovis people have been found, but these are the first weapons that pre-date the Clovis to ever be discovered.

“There is no doubt these weapons were used for hunting game in the area at that time,” Waters said. “The discovery is significant because almost all pre-Clovis sites have stone tools, but spear points have yet to be found.”

Excavations at the Friedkin site in Texas.

Clovis-style spear points, aptly named the “Clovis point,” have been discovered in Texas, parts of the U.S., and in Northern Mexico, but they are around 2,500 years younger than these spear points most recently found at the Friedkin site.

“The dream has always been to find diagnostic artifacts — such as projectile points — that can be recognized as older than Clovis and this is what we have at the Friedkin site,” Waters said.

This momentous discovery has answered many long-held questions from archaeologists about tools and weapons used by early Americans. However, as with all major discoveries, many new questions have popped up as well.

Who made these weapons? Did these tools inspire the other projectile points that came after? Or were they brought to North America during a migration?

Despite the remaining questions, these ancient weapons have unlocked countless secrets about the lives of those who came before us in North America.

18th-Century Gun Piece Discovered in Michigan

18th-Century Gun Piece Discovered in Michigan

Archaeologists have unearthed an 18th-century serpent sideplate from a British trade gun at a historic Mackinaw City fort

An 18th-century serpent sideplate was uncovered by archeologists from a British trade weapon at a historic fort in Mackinaw City.

The nearly 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) long piece was found last Tuesday in Fort Michilimackinac. It’s believed to date back to the 1770s.

Lynn Evans, the curator of archaeology at Mackinac State Historic Parks, said only four gun parts have been found in that particular location in 12 years.

“All of a sudden, here’s something we haven’t been finding,” Evans said.

Fort Michilimackinac is a reconstructed 18th-century for a trading village on the Straits of Mackinac. Over the centuries, the area was home to Native Americans, the French and the British.

The finding is part of a long-running archaeological program at the park.

Excavations take place seven days a week for 12 weeks in the summer, giving visitors a chance to watch archaeology in action and ask the archaeologists questions, too.

This year marks the archaeological dig’s 60th anniversary, making it one of North America’s longest-running archaeology programs.

“It’s an unusual opportunity, and I think it’s great you can do it right here in Michigan,” Evans said.

The serpent sideplate will be taken to a lab to be washed, examined and labeled.

Over the coming winter, the sideplate and other items found during this summer’s dig will be cataloged and put into storage for future use by researchers or in exhibits, either at the fort or by loan to other institutions.

In addition to the serpent, 2019 discoveries have included a silver trade brooch, a door hinge and a large piece of feather creamware.

Evans said discoveries paint a richer picture of what life was like at the fort.

“We have a lot of documents about the fort, but we don’t have a lot of diaries,” Evans said. “What we find is not gonna change history, but it gives us such a better understanding of daily life here.”

Ancient Egyptian Mummy Linen Fragments Seized in Michigan

Ancient Egyptian Mummy Linen Fragments Seized in Michigan

U.S. border officials say they have seized ancient Egyptian mummy linens during enforcement operations at the Blue Water Bridge that connects Port Huron, Mich., to Sarnia, Ont. 

Five containers containing the artifacts were seized on May 25 following the selection of the truck for examination in Michigan near Sarnia, Ont., the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

The artifacts had come from Canada in a bulk mail shipment, and were being shipped to a home in the United States, Kris Grogan, spokesman for the agency, said in an interview.

“It’s taken some time to identify what they were,” Grogan said. “We’ve had to work with the State Department as well as other federal agencies in identifying this.”

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday officers seized a package of five jars of containing the artifacts found May 25 on a Canadian mail truck.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday officers seized a package of five jars of containing the artifacts found May 25 on a Canadian mail truck.

The artifacts would be sent back to Egypt in the near future, Grogan said.

In a statement, the agency said the importer was unable to prove the linens had been taken out of Egypt before 2016.

That could be a violation of the U.S. Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, a federal law that allows American authorities to impose import restrictions on certain classes of archeological material.

Authorities said they worked with an unidentified archeological organization to pin down the age of the artifacts, which are believed to date back to the Ptolemaic Dynasty from 305-30 B.C.

One expert in antiquities, Sue McGovern-Huffman, said trying to illegally buy ancient artifacts is more trouble than it’s worth no matter what era the object is from.

“If it’s been illegally taken out of the country, it’s got a zero value as far as the commercial market is concerned,” McGovern-Huffman, president of Sands of Time Antiquities, said from Washington, D.C.

Without an artifact’s provenance or proof of ownership and history, even illegally selling ancient artifacts would be difficult for any dealer on the black market, she said.

McGovern-Huffman, an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers, said pieces like ancient mummy linens have more archeological or study interest than collector interest.

“These fragments have very little value. There are all these reports of antiquities selling for millions and billions of dollars on the black market and it’s completely wrong,” she said. “You’d be lucky to get $50 for this stuff.”

Michael Fox, the customs agency director in Port Huron, Mich., said the seizure was of “historical importance.”

Grogan said no arrests have been made as it remains unclear who might be criminally responsible.

‘Extraordinary archaeological find’: Last known US slave ship found in Alabama

‘Extraordinary archaeological find’: Last known US slave ship found in Alabama

'Extraordinary archaeological find': Last known US slave ship found in Alabama
It was torched and then sunk to the bottom of a river, but historians say they have now identified the remains of the last ship to carry slaves to the U.S.

The last U.S. slave ship, the Clotilda, was finally located at the bottom of the Mobile River in Alabama after a lot of searching.

The announcement comes one year after the release of the lost interview with a survivor of that ship by Zora Neale Hurston, and only a month after a scholar discovered that the last survivor of Clotilda lived until 1937.

It holds special significance for the residents of Africatown, Alabama, many of whom are descended from the Africans illegally trafficked on the Clotilda in 1860.

“It’s a wonderful discovery,” says Sylviane A. Diouf, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and author of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America.

“This is the only one so far that has been found which came directly from Africa to the Americas with people on board.” (The recently-discovered São José was on its way to Brazil but crashed in South Africa near Cape Town.)

The discovery is also significant because the Clotilda is already the most well-documented slave ship story in the Americas. “If it had only been a ship without the story, then that’s interesting,” Diouf says. “But we have the entire story.

So this is the first time that we have the entire story of what happened to the people who were on the ship and we have the ship as well.”The research initiative that found the Clotilda was partly motivated by the discovery of another ship in January 2018 that some thought might have been the Clotlida.

Afterward, the Alabama Historical Commission funded further efforts to find the Clotilda, which a slave trader had burned and then sunk to the bottom of the river to hide the evidence of its illegal journey.

Excavators ended up combing through a section of the Mobile River that had never been dredged before. Among the many sunken ships there, they found one that historians could confidently say matched the description of the Clotilda.

On January 2, 2018, in Mobile County, Alabama, remains of a ship were found that were originally believed to be the Clotilda, the last documented slave ship to have delivered captive Africans to the United States.

The more than 100 African children, teenagers and young adults on the Clotilda arrived in Alabama just one year before the Civil War.

When the U.S. officially abolished slavery in 1865, these young people had no means to travel back home, so some created a community called “African Town” in Alabama. The town helped preserve the stories of these people, some of whom carried their memories of capture and enslavement into the 20th century.

Unlike most slave ship survivors in history who remained largely undocumented, we have pictures and interviews of people who came over on the Clotilda. We even have film footage of the last known survivor, a woman born with the name “Redoshi” who went by “Sally Smith.”

When Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Cudjo Lewis, a founding member of African Town in the 1920s and ‘30s, he could still remember the disorienting trauma of being captured and enslaved at age 19.

“We doan know why we be bring ’way from our country to work lak dis,” said Lewis, originally named “Kossula.” “Everybody lookee at us strange. We want to talk wid de udder colored folkses but dey doan know whut we say.”

It’s not clear what will happen to the Clotilda’s remains, but residents of Africatown hope to highlight it in a way that draws tourism and business.

Africatown is home to a low-income community that has survived Hurricane Katrina and dangerous levels of industrial pollution, including from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

One option is to create a water memorial that people can visit, like the one commemorating the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor.“As a symbol, I think it’s crucial,” Diouf says of the discovery. “And I think for Africatown today, which is really a community that is struggling very much, it really puts Africatown on the map. And hopefully some good will come out of it.”

Source: usatoday

Toppled Trees in Florida Reveal 19th-Century Fort where 270 escaped slaves died

Toppled Trees in Florida Reveal 19th-Century Fort where 270 escaped slaves died

A post overlooking the Apalachicola River, 200 years ago, housed what historians say was North America’s largest community of freed slaves at the time.

Hurricane Michael has given archaeologists an unprecedented opportunity to study its story, a significant tale of black resistance that ended in bloodshed. The site, also known as Fort Gadsden, is about 70 miles southwest of Tallahassee in the Apalachicola National Forest near the hamlet of Sumatra.

Volunteer Marilyn Spores digs for artifacts in the roots of a fallen tree as the U.S. Forest Service studies the land where the Negro Fort stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
Volunteer Marilyn Spores digs for artifacts in the roots of a fallen tree as the U.S. Forest Service studies the land where the Negro Fort stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019. 

British lived at Prospect Bluff with allied escaped slaves, called Maroons, who joined the British military in exchange for freedom, along with Seminole, Creek, Miccosukee, and Choctaw tribe members.

The Negro Fort, which was built on the site by the British during the War of 1812, became a haven for escaped slaves. Inside, 300 barrels of gunpowder were stored, and defended by both women and men. Wary of the group of armed former slaves in Spanish Florida living so close to the United States border, U.S. soldiers began to attack.

On July 27, 1816, U.S. forces led by Colonel Duncan Clinch ventured down the river and fired a single shot at the fort’s magazine. It exploded, killing 270 escaped slaves and tribes people who were inside. Those who survived were forced back into slavery.

Local historian Dale Cox talks about the history of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Local historian Dale Cox talks about the history of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which purchased it in the 1940s, the site has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark and park. Because of that, it was never excavated for artifacts, except in 1963 by Florida State University, mainly to identify structural remains.“It’s a really intriguing story. There’s so much new ground there that historians of the past never really got into,” said Dale Cox, a Jackson County-based historian.

In an ironic way, Hurricane Michael has changed that — an isolated upside of the devastating storm. The October Category 5 hurricane caused extensive damage to the site, toppling about 100 trees.

Most of the debris has been cleared, but under the remaining massive roots, archaeologists began this month to dig and sift through the soil, uncovering small artifacts and documenting archaeological features revealed by the upturned trees.

The effort is funded by a $15,000 grant awarded from the National Park Service and is in partnership with the Southeast Archaeological Center.”The easy, low-hanging fruit is European trade ware that dates to that time period.

But when you have ceramics that were made by the locals, it’s even more unique and special,” said U.S. Forest Service Archaeologist Rhonda Kimbrough. “For one thing, there’s not much of it, and we don’t have a whole lot of historical records other than the European view from what life in these Maroon communities was like.”

So far, Kimbrough and others have found bits of Seminole ceramics, shards of British black glass and gun flint and pipe smoking fragments. They’ve also located the area of a field oven, a large circular ditch that surrounds a fire pit.

The British flag flies over the location of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
The British flag flies over the location of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

The fort was recently inducted into the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.”It’s like connecting the sites, pearls on a string,” said Kimbrough, “because these sites, even though they’re spread all over the place, they’re connected by one thing, which is resistance to slavery.”

Historian Cox has been tracking down the former slaves who died at the fort and the descendants of the few who made it out alive, like Polydore, who escaped and was recaptured to work for Andrew Jackson. Cox found his descendants who now live in Louisiana.

Miniature figurines depicting Fort Gadsden created by William Greer were exhibited at the Fort Gadsden new museum in Sumatra.
Miniature figurines depicting Fort Gadsden created by William Greer were exhibited at the Fort Gadsden new museum in Sumatra.

It’s been a slow process of sifting through Census records, which are private for 72 years before release, international archives of Great Britain as well as Spanish archives in Cuba. But Cox is on a quest to name as many as possible.

The people who lived in the Maroon community were very skilled, he said. Many were masons, woodworkers, farmers. They tended the surrounding melon and squash fields, but little is known precisely about their day-to-day lives.

The area has always been ideal for settling, given its higher elevation and clearings amid the river’s mostly swampy perimeter, said Andrea Repp, a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist. Prior to European occupation, the site was sacred to natives and was named Achackweithle, which resembles the words for “standing view” in Creek, according to the Florida Geological Survey. Matthew Shack, a Panama City historian, praised the archaeological effort.

Key persons responsible for research and development of the model of Fort Gadsden now on display at the new museum are shown looking at the finished replica. Standing, left to right, are Patrick Elliot, museum artist; Eddie Nesmith of Apalachicola, retired park supt. At the historic site; Jesse Fairley Jr., museum preparatory; and William Greer of Eastpoint, military miniature figure designer.
Key persons responsible for research and development of the model of Fort Gadsden now on display at the new museum are shown looking at the finished replica. Standing, left to right, are Patrick Elliot, museum artist; Eddie Nesmith of Apalachicola, retired park supt. At the historic site; Jesse Fairley Jr., museum preparatory; and William Greer of Eastpoint, military miniature figure designer.

Shack, 76, is a descendant of Maroons. His great great grandfather escaped a North Carolina plantation, married a part-Native American woman and settled in Marianna. He remembers his grandmother’s stories about the Prospect Bluff community.

“I remember her telling us about the ‘Colored Fort’ and all the colored folk who died,” he said. “A lot of black history wasn’t taught. A lot of our history is lost, and some of it we won’t get back. I’m glad that there’s a renewed interest in capturing the history that I thought was lost.”

Possible Seventeenth-Century Massacre Site Found in Alaska

Angry Alaskans burned a village to the ground and executed 28 inhabitants by tying them up and knifing them in the head ‘in a feud over a darts game’ in the mid 17th Century

Possible Seventeenth-Century Massacre Site Found in Alaska
Archaeologists in an Alaskan village called Agaligmiut found the remains of 28 bodies and 60,000 artifacts, revealing evidence of a legendary massacre.

Archeologists have uncovered in Alaska a 350-year-old massacre that took place during a war that might have started over a game of dart. The discovery reveals the gruesome ways in which people were executed in a city and confirms part of a legend passed down by the Yup’ik people over the centuries.

A recent excavation in the town of Agaligmiut (which today is often called Nunalleq) has uncovered the remains of 28 peoples who died during the massacre and 60,000 well-preserved artifacts.

Agaligmiut had a large interconnected complex designed to facilitate defense, said Rick Knecht and Charlotta Hillerdal, both archeology lecturers at Aberdeen University in Scotland who lead the site excavation team.

“We found that it had been burned down and the top was riddled with arrow points,” Knecht told Live Science. Some of the 28 people found “had been tied up with grass rope and executed,” said Knecht, adding that “they were face down and some of them had holes in the back of their skulls from [what] looks like a spear or an arrow.”

When exactly the massacre occurred is not certain, though Knecht said the complex was constructed sometime between A.D. 1590 and 1630. It was destroyed by an attack and fire sometime between 1652 and 1677, he added.

The start of war?

The massacre occurred during what historians called the “bow and arrow wars,” a series of conflicts in Alaska during the 17th century. According to one Yup’ik legend, the conflict started during a game of darts when one boy accidently hit another in the eye with a dart.

The father of the injured boy knocked out both eyes of the boy who caused the injury, the story goes. Then, a relative of the boy who had both eyes knocked out retaliated, the conflict escalating as other family members of the two boys got involved.

The dart-game melee eventually resulted in a series of wars across Alaska and the Yukon.”There’s a number of different tales,” Knecht said, adding that “what we do know is that the bow and arrow wars were during a period of time [called] the little ice age, where it went from quite a bit warmer than it is now to quite a bit colder in a very short period of time.” The colder weather may have caused a food shortage that could have triggered the conflict, Knecht said.

Massacre at Agaligmiut

Stories passed down over the centuries tell how the people of Agaligmiut, led by a man called Pillugtuq, put together a war party and went to attack another village that went by various names, including Pengurmiut and Qinarmiut.

The people of this other village had prior warning of the war party, and they ambushed the fighters, killing or scattering all their warriors.

There are a number of stories about the ambush. In one story, women from the other village dressed up to look like men and participated in the ambush, using bows and arrows to attack the war party. Another story says that, shortly before the war party left Agaligmiut, a shaman warned Pillugtuq that Agaligmiut would be reduced to ashes, a warning that Pillugtuq ignored.

After the ambush, warriors from the other village proceeded to Agaligmiut, killed its inhabitants and burned Agaligmiut down. Since most of the men of fighting age were with the war party that had been ambushed, the slaughter consisted of mostly women, children and old men.

Archaeological discoveries confirm this, as the 28 bodies consist mostly of women, children and older men. “There was only one male of fighting age,” Knecht said.

Before the massacre

About 60,000 well-preserved artifacts tell what life was like at Agaligmiut before the massacre. The artifacts include dolls, figurines, wooden dance masks and grass baskets.

The permafrost kept the artifacts exceptionally preserved, Hillerdal said. “It’s amazing, a lot of these things could just be used today. Sometimes, we find the wood still bright and not even darkened by age,” Knecht said.

Wooden dance masks are some of the most interesting artifacts. “Oftentimes they depict a person turning into an animal or an animal turning into a person,” Knecht said.

The figurines and dolls were used for a variety of purposes, including religious rituals and as toys. A team from the 3DVisLab at the University of Dundee in Scotland has been using an Artec Space Spider scanner, which they acquired from Patrick Thorn & Co, to create highly detailed 3D scans of the artifacts.

The scans will be digitized into an education package to help students learn about the artifacts at Agaligmiut and what life was like at the site before the massacre occurred.

Research at Agaligmiut is supported by Qanirtuuq Inc., an Alaska Native Village Corporation in Quinhagak.

According to legend passed down from the Yup'ik people, indigenous Arctic people residing in Alaska, the conflict started when a boy accidentally hit another boy in the eye with a dart.
According to legend passed down from the Yup’ik people, indigenous Arctic people residing in Alaska, the conflict started when a boy accidentally hit another boy in the eye with a dart

Source: dailymail