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Seven skeletons discovered in a remote New Mexico canyon were victims of a brutal massacre that may have been part of an ancient campaign of genocide, archaeologists say.
In particular, the skulls of two of the victims have an "unusual" flattened shape that has never been seen before in the Southwest, the experts said.
Such signs of a distinctive culture may help explain why the group was so plagued by violent conflicts with neighboring groups.
Traces of the Gallina culture were first discovered in the 1930s by archaeologists working just a few miles from the newfound massacre site.
Scientists at the time described excavating a 25-foot-tall (7.6-meter-tall) circular stone tower that held the remains of 16 people, all of whom bore signs of gruesome deaths
This "megadrought" is also known to have spurred mass migrations throughout the region, including the abandonment of massive settlements built by the Anasazi, such as the sophisticated pueblos at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
With such dire competition for water and land, the Gallina may have been particularly vulnerable if they were seen as outsiders with their own, isolated culture, the researchers speculated.
She says perhaps the most distinct clues revealed by the new discovery are the two deformed skulls that Nelson first observed.
"It's not just him that sees [the deformation]," she said. "It's there."
The skulls are flattened on the back, just below the crown, Nelson explained. The deformation must have occurred during infancy, when the victims' skull bones were soft and malleable.
In a study published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a team from Arizona and Colorado found that the Southwest suffered a six-decade megadrought from 1118 to 1179.
"Almost all of [the Gallina ever found] were murdered," he said. "[Someone] was just killing them, case after case, every single time."
Originally posted by Equinox99
It's what happened to the Assyrians, Armenians, In China, etc etc.
How many bodies have they found to consider it a genocide?
However it appears only the minority Gallina were massacred, as evidenced by similar grisly finds at other sites, which is odd because if there were so few of them, it’s unlikely that they had resources in sufficient quantity to warrant others coming along to wrest control of them - indeed, it’s hard to imagine the Gallina exercised control over anything of importance, so it’s unlikely that whoever massacred them was doing so for material gain, in the guise of food, water, livestock, grain or land.
An hour's hike from the nearest source of water and perched hundreds of feet over the valley below, the site "is an excellent example of just how scared these people must have been," said archaeologist Tony Largaespada.
Archaeologists first learned of the Gallina culture when a team of scientists came upon this circular stone tower in northwestern New Mexico in the 1930s.
Researchers at the time described the tower as standing some 25 feet (7.5 meters) tall, with outer walls 6 feet (2 meters) thick. Today only about 12 feet (3.5 meters) of the structure remain.