The article in the nation’s biggest newspaper is fascinating, on several levels.
The thrust of the story was a presentation at the annual National Academy of Science, where the “Minnesota Woman” story was discussed by scholars and scientists. There was no reference to Pelican Rapids, even though she was discovered a few miles northeast of town in 1931 during a road reconstruction project. There is, however, a reference to Ottertail County, innacurately spelled as one word –rather than Otter Tail.
As an old newspaperman, I found it interesting that the editors and headline writers at the New York Times chose a “crime, murder and mayhem” headline to grab readers even though the story was really about archeology, not homicide. The 1930’s was a period when sensational stories were exploited to “sell papers.” Back then, there were probably at least a dozen newspapers on every New York City street corner –all frantically competing for eyeballs.
With a little imagination, you can almost hear a ten-year-old newsboy, shouting and “hawking” the edition:
“Extra! Extra! Read all about it…Woman murdered on Minnesota glaciar 20,000 years ago….!!!
It wasn’t really “fake news” as we’ve come to know it today, because the story itself is actually very factual –just embellished, “spun” and headlined to grab the maximum number of readers.
Some of the science of Minnesota Woman –whom we have affectionately given the name Nimuué–has been reconsidered and revised since 1932.
But one statement in the article rings true to this day: “”…This Minnesota girl is one of the most important anthropological discoveries made in America, so far as both her antiquity and type are concerned.”
We thank Harold Holt, Pelican Rapids High School teacher, coach and history buff, for calling this nearly-nine-decade-old article to our attention.
For the past several years, there has been a concerted effort to revive interest and academic research into Minnesota Woman. Among the leaders of the campaign, Phletus Williams, of Pelican Lake, a scientist himself. He’s the fellow who added a human touch by naming her Nimuué, which translates as “Lady of the Lake.”
Since the 1932 article in the New York Times, there has been some division in the scientific community over whether Nimuué is 20,000 years old or “only” 8,000.
The New York Times article, even as dated as it is, will please Phletus –as he has been making the case that Nimuué is essentially among the oldest human remains ever found in North America –at 20,000 years.
Reprinted here, excerpts from the front page New York Times article.
Ann Arbor. Mich., Nov 16, 1932 –
Twenty thousand years ago, when late Neanderthal men were hunting in Assyria, and Egypt was a wilderness inhabited by equally primitive savages, a 17 year old girl, who had something of the Mongol and something of the ape about her, was killed and perhaps thrown into a glacial lake in what is now Ottertail County, Minn.
It was not the crime but the victim that held the attention of the National Academy of Sciences at the third and last session of its Autumnal meeting, held at the University of Michigan. For this Minnesota girl is one of the most important anthropological discoveries ever made in America, so far as both her antiquity and her type are concerned.
Dr. A.E. Jenks of the University of MN told how a gang that was building a highway last year through the dried silt of what had been the bottom of the lake had unearthed some of the girl’s bones. He recovered more last summer. Near her was an antler dagger, but this was probably hers and not the weapon with which she had been killed. The shell pendants that she wore on her head and around her neck and the shell apron that hung from her waist also were found, although not intact.
In her shoulder blade is a nick that mutely testifies to her murder. In his reconstruction of a 20,000 year old crime, Dr. Jenks advanced the theory that she was shot from the front through the right lung and probably through the heart by an arrow that left its mark on the shoulder blade.
Or perhaps it was a spear that killed her.
Was she in a canoe or on a raft, or on the ice when the end came?…