Jamestown colony settlers turned to cannibalism
Newly discovered human bones prove that settlers in America's first permanent English colony turned to cannibalism over the winter of 1609-10, Smithsonian researchers say.
Last year, the four-century-old skull and tibia of a teenage girl was excavated from a dump in James Fort, Va., reports the BBC. Numerous chops and cuts found on the skull were consistent with those of butchering meat.
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Founded in 1607, James Fort was the earliest part of the Jamestown colony.
“The evidence is absolutely consistent with dismemberment and de-fleshing of this body,” Doug Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., told the BBC.
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Previously written documents had suggested that during the harsh winter of 1609-10, known as the Starving Time, colonists resorted to cannibalism. It is believed that the 14-year-old girl became sustenance for a starving community with insufficient food sources.
“The clear intent was to remove the facial tissue and the brain for consumption,” Owsley said. “These people were in dire circumstances. So any flesh that was available would have been used.”
It is reported that 60 of the original 300 settlers survived the brutal winter.
Read the entire BBC story here.
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Photo: The skull of "Jane of Jamestown" with models at the National Museum of Natural History on May 1 (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
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