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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.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor May 1, 2013 6:32PM

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.

Photo: The skull of

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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.

Tell us: What do you think of this story?

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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)

12Comments
May 3, 2013 2:14PM
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Well, strike one for the oral histories! Not everything is made up...
May 3, 2013 2:13PM
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tout e decouverte! couldn't blame it on bath salts, either!
May 2, 2013 10:06PM
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Agree with another post that one chopped up human does not equal wide-spread cannibalism. But might give a new meaning to the Pilgrims having the Indians for dinner for Thanksgiving.
May 2, 2013 7:59PM
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you find one skull and bones that look like it was chopped up and then say everyone was eating human beings. Im sorry but one body doesn't mean everyone was eating humans.
May 2, 2013 5:24PM
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 Most if not all of the documented cases of cannibalism were perpetrated by Europeans of German descent ... The Anglos, the Saxons, the Keltics etc...   All the available evidences suggest that Africans, Asians and Native Americans chose starvation over cannibalism...  The question on the table is; are the Europeans of German descent civilized or are they barbarians ???  
May 2, 2013 4:44PM
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So the book "the Lottery" is a true story... 

May 2, 2013 3:39PM
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It is my contention that the reason turkey is the traditional center piece for Thanksgiving`s Day is because " turkey " was the slang name given to the Indians because of the feathers they wore. And in reality the Pilgrims ate the Indians.
May 2, 2013 12:29PM
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Starvation is a powerful motivator...got to survive.
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