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Journal Article

A Massacre and Possible Cannibalism in the Canadian Arctic: New Evidence from the Saunaktuk Site (NgTn-1)

Jerry Melbye and Scott I. Fairgrieve
Arctic Anthropology
Vol. 31, No. 2 (1994), pp. 57-77
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40316364
Page Count: 21

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Topics: Bones, Human cannibalism, Violence, Long bones, Excavations, Muscles, Ethnohistory, Anthropology, Ribs, Torture
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Massacre and Possible Cannibalism in the Canadian Arctic: New Evidence from the Saunaktuk Site (NgTn-1)
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Abstract

The remains of at least 35 individuals (women, children, and the elderly) were recovered from the Saunaktuk site (NgTn-1) in the Eskimo Lakes region of the Northwest Territories. Recent interpretations in the Arctic have suggested a mortuary custom resulting in dismemberment, defleshing, chopping, long bone splitting, and scattering of human remains. On the evidence from the Saunaktuk site, we reject this hypothesis. The Saunaktuk remains exhibit five forms of violent trauma indicating torture, mutilation, murder, and cannibalism. Apparently these people were the victims of long-standing animosity between Inuit and Amerindian groups in the Canadian Arctic. This animosity is explored by examining in detail the skeletal evidence of violence and the rare commodity of an ethnohistory in the form of a local oral tradition. The ethnohistory serves to confirm the conclusions reached from the skeletal analysis. A detailed description of the lesions present on the remains chronicles the tragic events that took place at this site in precontact times.

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