Cannibalism resorted to by early US settlers
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS PhotoEarly settlers resorted to cannibalism at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, researchers said May 1 after unveiling forensic analysis on the bones of a 14-year-old girl.
Facing a period of starvation in the winter of 1609-1610 when about 80 percent of the colonists died, some apparently tried to dig into the brain of a child who had already died, said anthropologists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
The girl’s skull showed signs of awkward attempts to extract the brain matter, said Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the skull and tibia of the girl who came to Virginia from England.
“The desperation and overwhelming circumstances faced by the James Fort colonists during the winter of 1609-1610 are reflected in the postmortem treatment of this girl’s body,” said Owsley.
“The recovered bone fragments have unusually patterned cuts and chops that reflect tentativeness, trial and complete lack of experience in butchering animal remains,” he added.
“Nevertheless, the clear intent was to dismember the body, removing the brain and flesh from the face for consumption.” The bones were excavated in 2012, and were considered unusual because of the high degree of fragmentation. The girl’s teeth and parts of her skull were found as part of an excavation that included butchered horse and dog bones.