Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

William M. Bass

Committee Members

Fred H. Smith, Edward T. Howley


About 1325 AD in south-central South Dakota nearly 500 American Indians were massacred at the Crow Creek Site. They were mutilated, exposed above ground, then buried in the fortification ditch which surrounded the Crow Creek Village. Their remains were discovered, excavated, and cleaned in 1978 and were available for study the first 5 months of 1979. The general purposes of the Crow Creek osteological study were to describe the remains as fully as time permitted and compare these results with those of other samples. This dissertation presents information concerning the Crow Creek bone elements, paleodemography, cranial affiliations, mutilations, and stature. It emphasizes the unique features of the sample and compares the Crow Creek sample with other skeletal samples from the Plains.

The major findings can be summarized as follows: At least 486 Arikara were buried, that number probably constituting roughly 60 percent of the village inhabitants. Many of the smaller, more distal and more cancellous bone elements are under-represented, and many bones show indications of chewing, snapping, and splintering. There are some indications that some of the elements were preferentially placed in the ditch though these indications are slight. There are fewer young adult females and old adult males present in the sample than expected. A number of explanations for their absence are possible, but the raiders taking captives seems a most likely explanation for the missing young women. There are many mutilations on the bones. Scalping, skull fractures, evulsions, and decapitations are common. Cranial measurements indicate the Crow Creek sample were Arikara Indians and otherwise most similar to the Pawnee and St. Helena samples. There appear to be no morphologically alien skulls in the sample and no kin affiliated burial placement of the skulls. The Crow Creek sample was shorter than subsequent Arikara samples, but only the females were significantly shorter. Their stature may indicate dietary insufficiencies and illnesses, but additional testing of this hypothesis is necessary.

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