Heaps of evidence Attackers appear to have dumped mutilated and burned body parts into a pit house at sacred ridge. the reconstruction at
left shows what the structure’s interior might have looked like before the attack, and the figure at right shows where bone fragments (red) were found.
and surpluses of stored deer and elk meat
confined to Sacred Ridge inflamed ethnic tensions, Potter posits. The regional
melting pot boiled over when members
of one group eliminated the Sacred Ridge
clan in a ferocious attack, he suggests.
Within 15 years of the massacre,
Pueblo people abandoned Ridges Basin.
Later Pueblo settlements, known for
stone and adobe dwellings built along
cliff walls, appeared elsewhere in the
Four Corners region.
Much of that scenario rings true to
Stodder. From her perspective, though,
Sacred Ridge offers a chilling example
of prehistoric genocide. Although far
greater numbers of people died in Nazi
death camps and on Cambodia’s killing
fields, attackers at Sacred Ridge shared
much the same devotion to eliminating
a population seen as a threat, Stodder
proposed at the April meeting.
That argument doesn’t sway Potter.
One Ridges Basin ethnic group fell on
exceedingly hard times and killed culturally different villagers seen as too powerful, he and archaeologist Jason Chuipka
of Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants in Yellow Jacket, Colo., propose in
an upcoming Journal of Anthropological
Archaeology. Ethnic violence at Sacred
Ridge was tragic but fell well short of
large-scale genocides inflicted by modern societies, in Potter’s view.
Other researchers have leveled
that same criticism at suggestions that
Scrape marks, chop marks, crushed
areas and fractures also appeared on
many bones. Fractures of the skull base
in at least two individuals resembled an
execution method used by the Khmer
Rouge in Cambodia, an organization
that killed roughly 2 million perceived
enemies of Communist rulers more than
30 years ago. Kneeling prisoners received
deadly blows to the back of the head,
close to the brain stem and spinal cord.
Extensive damage observed on reas-
sembled foot bones from Sacred Ridge
indicated that attackers
used clubs of some kind to
bash victims’ heels and toes.
Soles of prostrate villagers’
feet were then beaten hard
enough to crush and peel
Whatever label one
applies to it, the methodical
destruction of an extended
family with an unsure grip on power
“doesn’t fit any modern category of
social behavior,” Stodder says.
“It was like
doing 15 jigsaw
could all be
part of a larger
Witches of Ridges Basin
Assessing the cavalcade of carnage meted
out at Sacred Ridge, anthropologist Debra
Martin of the University of Nevada, Las
Vegas thinks of witches. Witch accusations and killings have long occurred in
societies throughout the world, Martin
says. Hopi, Zuni and other Pueblo groups
have for centuries killed people regarded
as malevolent sorcerers controlled by
unseen, wicked forces. Children are
viewed as particularly easy prey for evil
spirits seeking bodies and souls to commandeer for nefarious purposes.
Procedures for destroying witches
include mutilating, cutting up and burning bodies so evil spirits have no human
vessels to inhabit. Victims end up looking
much like those found by Potter’s team.