/Ancient, Pregnant Native American Woman Who Was Shot and Killed by Arrows Discovered by Archaeologists

Ancient, Pregnant Native American Woman Who Was Shot and Killed by Arrows Discovered by Archaeologists

An archaeologist in Pennsylvania is starting to unravel the mysterious burial of an ancient, pregnant Native American woman who appears to have met a violent end.

Bioarchaeologist Robyn Wakefield-Murphy found four arrowheads in the torso of a woman who hails from Pennsylvania’s Monongahela culture. She described her research in a poster at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in March.

The young woman’s bones were originally uncovered in the 1950s excavation of a site in southwestern Pennsylvania, archaeologist Kristina Killgrove—who was not involved in the research—recently reported for Forbes. Wakefield-Murphy found the bones at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Unusually, the woman had been discovered under a tree outside the settlement, which was likely bordered by walls of wooden stakes. The Monongahela typically buried adults inside their villages and children underneath their houses.

Some 30 bone beads were discovered near the woman’s pelvis and 44 shell beads about her neck. The remains of her fetus show she was roughly 24 weeks pregnant at death.

Appalachian State University anthropologist Gwen Schug told Forbes: “[The] placement of the grave suggests a renegotiation of the relationship between the living and this particular death.”

Researcher Siân Halcrow, from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, added that the  burial “sheds valuable light onto this society’s response to grief and the loss of this expectant mother.”

Wakefield-Murphy linked the strange grave to the pregnant woman’s unexpectedly violent death. “The specialized nature of the burial is thus a product of greater societal grief invested in the unexpected loss of not one but two members of the community,” she wrote in her poster. Wakefield-Murphy did not immediately respond to Newsweek ’s request for comment.

The Monongahela, who lived from about 1050 C.E. to 1635 C.E., according to Ohio History Central, built relatively large villages featuring dome-shaped houses. They cultivated crops like maize and would have traded with other Native American groups. Beyond western Pennsylvania, the Monongahela culture spread to parts of eastern Ohio, western Maryland and West Virginia. The culture is named for the Monongahela River that cuts through West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Native American, Pregnant

The Monongahela River, which cuts through West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania, is pictured. Getty Images

The Monongahela are thought to have disappeared before having much contact with Europeans. However, archaeologists aren’t sure what happened to them. Some researchers believe the Monongahela could have been wiped out by infectious disease, but others think they may have joined other Native American groups.

In other archaeology news, researchers in Egypt recently uncovered more than 30 mummies, many of them children, in a multi-roomed tomb. Over in Europe, archaeologists excavating the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy recently found a long-lost fast food joint.

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