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4/26/06: The Donner Party at Alder Creek

A monument at California's Donner Memorial State Park commemorates the plight of the ill-fated group.

By Doug Fabrizio

Salt Lake City, UT – Since the tragedy of the Donner Party some 160 years ago, the details of the California bound pioneers' desperate situation has fascinated the public. Contemporary accounts of death and cannibalism were clearly exaggerated for the purpose of selling newspapers. New archaeological evidence from a hearth at the Alder Creek camp, however, is shedding light on the story of how the group lived during four months of brutal cold, wretched storms and starvation. Doug Fabrizio is joined by forensic anthropologist Shannon Novak, historian Kristin Johnson and journalist Dana Goodyear, author of "What Happened at Alder Creek?" which appears in this week's New Yorker Magazine.

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