For the past few centuries, the Yup’ik peoples of Alaska have told gruesome tales of a massacre that occurred during the Bow and Arrow War Days, a series of long and often brutal battles across the Bering Sea coast and the Yukon. According to one account, the carnage started when one village sent a war party to raid another. But the residents had been tipped off and set an ambush, wiping out the marauders. The victors then attacked the undefended town, torching it and slaughtering its inhabitants. No one was spared.
For the last 12 years, Rick Knecht has led an excavation at a site called Nunalleq, about 400 miles west of Anchorage. “When we began, the hope was to learn something about Yup’ik prehistory by digging in an average village,” said Dr. Knecht, an archaeologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. “Little did we know that we were digging in something approaching the Yup’ik equivalent of Troy.”