There have been a lot of massacres in history that have started for dubious reasons, but the legend of an Alaskan war started by a game of darts is something else.
Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen excavating the town of Agaligmiut have uncovered a massacre site dating to 350 years ago, which occurred during a series of conflicts in Alaska in the 17th century described and passed down through generations of Yup'ik people, including the infamous "eye poking incident".
The excavation has unearthed 28 people who died in the massacre as well as 60,000 other artifacts, including figurines, wooden dance masks, and dolls, but it is the way the people died that apparently confirms some of this incredible legend.
Accounts of the massacre and how it took place are quite something. According to the story, outlined in The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska by Caroline L. Funk, a man was working on a hunting boat at another man's house. Their two boys were playing a game of darts.
At some point, one of the boys threw a dart towards the other boy, which "popped his eye out". The other boy's father, who clearly wasn't dad of the year 1660, suggested popping out one of his own son's eyes. A very literal eye for an eye situation. Here's where it began to escalate.
According to the legend, the father of the now one-eyed boy took up the other man's offer and proceeded to poke his son's eye out. But then he gouged out his second eye as well.
The second man understandably got mad at this, and so also started gouging out eyes. You know how it goes, relatives get involved and soon everyone was popping out each others' eyeballs willy nilly.
Soon the whole village was involved in the fighting, really getting stuck into the surprising violence and gouging that had somehow started with a children's game.
A man was reportedly seen crawling away from the village with a large hole in his stomach and his intestines hanging out, which he tried to push back in. Worse, a woman from a nearby village is said to have seen a mist rise, created by steam from the blood of the villagers.
This violent outburst spilled out (like said intestines and villager's eyeballs) into all-out war, later known as the "bow and arrow wars" of the 1600s. And a particular aspect of the story – that people were wrapped in grass and left in the village – has been supported by evidence the archaeologists found.
"Some of the 28 people found had been tied up with grass rope and executed," Rick Knecht, who lectures in archaeology at the University of Aberdeen told Live Science. "They were face down and some of them had holes in the back of their skulls from [what] looks like a spear or an arrow."
It's unknown what actually took place here, though the researchers told Live Science that food shortages caused by cold weather could have helped to trigger the conflict. Since a lot of what we do know is legend, it's likely an exaggeration of whatever massacre took place here, even if some parts of it have now been confirmed.
[H/T: Live Science]