Study: Starving Jamestown Settlers Turned to Cannibalism in 1609

Image: Study: Starving Jamestown Settlers Turned to Cannibalism in 1609 The arrival of the maids as wives for the settlers at Jamestown in 1619 is shown in this engraving from the collection of the library of Congress." To have and To Hold" the novel, was based on this incident in the story of the first permanent English settlement in America, which began at Jamestown, Va., in 1607.

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 03:26 PM

 

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
    A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

Settlers at Virginia's Jamestown Colony resorted to cannibalism to survive the harsh winter of 1609, dismembering and consuming a 14-year-old English girl, the U.S. Smithsonian Institution reported on Wednesday.

A recent excavation at the historic site revealed not just the remains of dogs, cats and horses eaten by settlers during the cold "Starving Time" of that year, but also the bones of a girl known to researchers simply as "Jane."

This is the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent colony in the Americas, the Smithsonian said on its website.

The institution is the biggest museum and research complex in the world with 19 museums and galleries, most of them in Washington. It also includes the National Zoo.

"Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened here," said Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Douglas Owls, who analyzed the bones after they were found by Preservation Virginia, a private nonprofit group.

"Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it's clear that this body was dismembered for consumption," Owls said in the online announcement.

It is unknown whether "Jane" was murdered or died of natural causes, whether several people or just one person participated in what the announcement called "the butchering."

"The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete," Owls said. "Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain."

The brain, tongue, cheeks and leg muscles appear to have been eaten, with the brain probably consumed first because it decomposes soon after death, the announcement said.

Scholars have speculated that extreme drought, hostile relations with the local Powhatan Confederacy and a lost supply ship made the Jamestown colonists desperate enough to eat humans. Writings had suggested it, but no hard physical evidence existed until now.

William Keelson, lead archeologist on the project, and his team discovered the girl's remains last summer.

"We found a deposit of refuse that contained butchered horse and dog bones," Keelson said. "That was only done in times of extreme hunger. As we excavated, we found human teeth and then a partial human skull."

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

German Researchers: Cellphone Calls, Messages Easy to Crack

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 14:12 PM

Security flaws on the global network that routes the world's cellphone calls and texts could allow hackers and criminals . . .

Kepler's Exoplanet Find Is First Since Space Telescope Revived

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 09:54 AM

The Kepler space telescope has discovered its first exoplanet since NASA's engineers were able to reboot the mission man . . .

Rosetta Comet-Landing Is 2014's Top Science Breakthrough

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 08:37 AM

The top scientific breakthrough of 2014 was the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft's rendezvous with a comet, th . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved