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Starvation Cannibalism at Jamestown
Bones Don't Lie ^ | 5-2-2013 | Katy Myers

Posted on 01/19/2014 4:03:14 AM PST by Renfield

If you’ve read any news in the past day, you’ve seen reports regarding cannibalism in colonial Jamestown. It was known prior that the colonists had undergone a number of starvation years where they were forced to eat foods that they wouldn’t normally. The trash pits from the sites hold the remains of animals who aren’t normally butchered, including horses, cats, dogs, rats and snakes. Burials from this period are not given the complete funerary treatment likely due to the high number of deaths, and the skeletons show evidence of nutritional hardship and early death. The colony was founded in 1607 and by 1608 only 38 remained, the others succumbing to starvation and disease. The following winter their supply ship didn’t arrive, and they faced the harshest winter yet. This is when cannibalism is thought to have occurred.

In 1625, George Percy, the president of Jamestown during this starvation period, wrote a letter describing this period. He wrote “Haveinge fedd upon our horses and other beastes as longe as they Lasted, we weare gladd to make shifte with vermin as doggs Catts, Ratts and myce…as to eate Bootes shoes or any other leather… And now famin beginneinge to Looke gastely and pale in every face, thatt notheinge was Spared to mainteyne Lyfe and to doe those things which seame incredible, as to digge upp deade corpes outt of graves and to eate them. And some have Licked upp the Bloode which hathe fallen from their weake fellowes.”

Archaeologist William Kelso recovered the remains of a 14 year old English girl in 2012 from the Jamestown site. Her remains were found in a trash pit along with horse and dog bones that had been clearly butchered. Only 66% of the skull was recovered and some other bones including a tibia. There is no evidence for cause of death and all cut-marks were made post-mortem. The evidence of cannibalism consists of: four shallow cuts along the frontal bone, seven shallow cuts along the lower mandible, deeper cuts along the temporal, the cranium had been split at the back, and there were marks along the tibia. From the manner of the cut-marks, it was determined by Douglas Owsley that the cuts had been made by at least two different individuals- one experienced in butchering and one who was not. The locations of the marks suggests that they had removed the girl’s brain, tongue, cheeks and leg muscles. They posit that the girl was likely a servant on one of the re-supply ships who died of natural causes, but was then butchered due to the starving conditions (Stromberg 2013).

Remains of the Jamestown girl, via Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert

Remains of the Jamestown girl, via Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert

Determining cannibalism is something that cannot be done lightly, especially when we are talking about our own ancestors and the colonists of our nation. Jones, Walsh-Haney and Quinn (2012) discussed six criteria for determining cannibalism: deliberate bone breakage, presence of human tooth marks, cut-marks, evidences of cooking (pot marks and change in bone color), abrasions caused by anvils, or crushing of vertebrae to extract fat and marrow from the vertebral bodies. To determine if its for nutrition the bones are compared against butchery cut-marks, long bone breakage and discard patterns that are known for animal food sources. Adding to this, Brown (2011) argues it is important to also note the historical circumstances, understand the bias of historical accounts, and use as much contextual information as possible. She also notes that the problem with interpreting cannibalism is that it is highly sensational and very individual, so cases cannot be easily compared.

Was there cannibalism at Jamestown? There are the accounts of Percy from 1625, who argues that there were multiple accounts of cannibalism due to this starving period. His most famous account is about the trial of a man who killed, salted and ate his wife who had been pregnant. His full account of what occurred during this period is found online at George Percy’s A Trewe Relacyon. From the Virginia General Assembly came an account: “One man out of the misery he endured, killing his wife powdered her up to eat her, for which he was burned. Many besides fed on the Corpses of dead men, and one who had gotten unsatiable, out of custom to that food could not be restrained, until such time as he was executed for it”. Montgomery (2007) found at least a half dozen accounts of cannibalism in this early colonial period around Jamestown. The bounty of this textual evidence would seem to support that cannibalism did indeed occur.

Was this girl from Jamestown cannibalized? Her bones have cut-marks that are similar to butchery marks of animals, and are located in areas that would have allowed them to gain access to meat. There is evidence of the cranium being split open, and all the damage was done after death. As far as the accounts we have access to state, there isn’t evidence of teeth marks or pot marks from boiling, so we have partial criteria for cannibalism based on Jones, Walsh-Haney and Quinn (2012). Contextual evidence adds to the argument since the remains were found in a trash pit with other butchered animal bones rather than in a grave. Further, the unprofessional cutmarks along the skull suggest desperation rather than another cause. All this evidence points to a highly likely yes, this female may have been cannibalized, but it was done after death.

What does this tell us about our past? It does not mean that our colonists were in any way deviants, but rather points to their desperation and need. The more we learn about this early period of American history, the more we discover that it was extremely difficult. This evidence adds to our understanding of just how much they struggled and did all they could to survive and begin our nation. Survival anthropophagy has occurred throughout history: the Donner Party in 1846, the Mignotte ship in 1886, and the plane crash of the rugby team in the Andes in 1972. Will this finding at Jamestown shift our perception of this earlier colonial period? Yes, but it will be likely viewed as much harsher conditions than we previously thought instead of being viewed as a period of deviant behavior.

Works Cited

ResearchBlogging.orgS. Jones, H. Walsh-Haney, & R. Quinn (2012). Kana Tamata or Feasts of Men: An Interdisciplinary Approach for Identifying Cannibalism in Prehistoric Fiji International Journal of Osteoarchaeology

Stromberg 2013. Starving Settlers in Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism. Smithsonian Magazine. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Starving-Settlers-in-Jamestown-Colony-Resorted-to-Eating-A-Child-205472161.html

Brown 2011. Cannibalism. These Bones of Mine. http://thesebonesofmine.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/guest-blog-cannibalism-in-archaeology-by-kate-brown/

Montgomery 2007. “Such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of”Colonial Williamsburg. http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter07/jamestownSide.cfm


TOPICS: Food; History; Science
KEYWORDS: ancientautopsies; cannibalism; georgepercy; godsgravesglyphs; jamestown; starvation; virginia; virginiahistory; williamkelso

1 posted on 01/19/2014 4:03:15 AM PST by Renfield
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping


2 posted on 01/19/2014 4:03:36 AM PST by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield

Very interesting. Thanks for posting.


3 posted on 01/19/2014 4:14:24 AM PST by OldPossum ("It's" is the contraction of "it" and "is"; think about ITS implications.)
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To: Renfield

They got through one hard year and apparently did nothing to feed themselves during the summer ... then winter hit.


4 posted on 01/19/2014 4:18:24 AM PST by knarf (I say things that are true .. I have no proof .. but they're true.)
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To: Renfield
Lazy or stupid, or both.

For people who had crossed about 4000 miles of ocean, and parked alongside an overwhelming abundance of seafood, this is just unfathomable.

5 posted on 01/19/2014 4:26:14 AM PST by meadsjn
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To: Renfield

why does the author keep asking if there was cannibalism and going back to determine if the girl was butchered when the same author cites people admitting to it?


6 posted on 01/19/2014 4:27:40 AM PST by wiggen (The teacher card. When the racism card just won't work.)
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To: meadsjn

“Lazy or stupid, or both.”

You just defined the modern day libtard.

Pluck a handful of anti gun tree hugging libs from the middle of NYC or LA, drop them off in a wilderness area full of game and you would likely get similar results.


7 posted on 01/19/2014 5:10:47 AM PST by redfreedom (All it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing - that's how the left took over.)
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To: Renfield

It’s important to include some context to this.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans to the east coast, the number one cause of death for Native Americans was starvation. And there are strong indications that some of the tribes did resort to cannibalism now and then.


8 posted on 01/19/2014 5:15:20 AM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy (There Is Still A Very Hot War On Terror, Just Not On The MSM. Rantburg.com)
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To: wiggen

Hard to say, maybe his definition of cannibalism is killing someone to eat as opposed to what the article said about digging up corpses to eat.

One is just as sick as the other.


9 posted on 01/19/2014 5:15:27 AM PST by redfreedom (All it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing - that's how the left took over.)
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To: redfreedom
“Lazy or stupid, or both.”

You just defined the modern day libtard.

Pluck a handful of anti gun tree hugging libs from the middle of NYC or LA, drop them off in a wilderness area full of game and you would likely get similar results.

Maybe so, but we should try it anyway.

If it fails miserably, just keep trying until it fails miserably every time. Repeat as necessary.

10 posted on 01/19/2014 5:24:26 AM PST by meadsjn
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To: Renfield
Imagine our cities two weeks after the national food distribution system collapses for any number of reasons.

Alas, Brave New Babylon 60-second Youtube trailer

Link to the full-text Free Republic thread.

11 posted on 01/19/2014 5:27:53 AM PST by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: redfreedom

“Alive” By Piers Paul Read is the greatest survival story ever. People will do what it takes to survive.

http://www.amazon.com/Alive-Piers-Paul-Read/dp/0099574527/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1390138310&sr=8-3&keywords=alive+piers+paul+read


12 posted on 01/19/2014 5:33:03 AM PST by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: Travis McGee

13 posted on 01/19/2014 5:33:37 AM PST by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy
Prior to the arrival of Europeans to the east coast, the number one cause of death for Native Americans was starvation. And there are strong indications that some of the tribes did resort to cannibalism now and then.

That was my question. Were the marks consistent with sharpened steel implements or stone? If stone, then the possibility exists that the remains could have been recovered from the Indians and given a proper burial.

And if stone, the premise of the article is suspect and possibly an attempt to besmirch colonists long dead.

14 posted on 01/19/2014 5:40:25 AM PST by sr4402
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To: Renfield

and I wonder if this won’t be what happens to those volunteers who are going to Mars on a one way trip.


15 posted on 01/19/2014 5:50:38 AM PST by Beowulf9
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To: meadsjn
Lazy or stupid, or both.

Captain John Smith agrees

The investors of the London Company expected to reap rewards from their speculative investments. With the Second Supply, they expressed their frustrations and made demands upon the leaders of Jamestown in written form. They specifically demanded that the colonists send commodities sufficient to pay the cost of the voyage, a lump of gold, assurance that they had found the South Sea, and one member of the lost Roanoke Colony.

It fell to the third president of the Council to deliver a reply. Ever bold, Captain John Smith delivered what must have been a wake-up call to the investors in London. In what has been termed "Smith's Rude Answer", he composed a letter, writing (in part):

When you send againe I entreat you rather send but thirty Carpenters, husbandmen, gardiners, fishermen, blacksmiths, masons and diggers up of trees, roots, well provided; than a thousand of such as wee have: for except wee be able both to lodge them and feed them, the most will consume with want of necessaries before they can be made good for anything.

[1] Smith did begin his letter with something of an apology, saying "I humbly intreat your Pardons if I offend you with my rude Answer..

I am descended from one of the members of the relief party, Stephen Hopkins, who is the only person believed to have sailed on both the Sea Venture and the Mayflower. The Sea Venture ran aground on the then uncharted and uninhabited Bermuda during a hurricane, an event believed to inspired Shakespeare's The Temptest, wherein Hopkins is depicted unfavorably as the somewhat buffoonish character Stephano. (Hopkins was convicted mutiny while stranded on Bermuda and sentenced to hang, but he was popular and apparently useful, so he was spared. Or else I won't be here to tell you about it.)

16 posted on 01/19/2014 5:57:45 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (In the long run, we are all dead.)
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To: meadsjn
Mother England basically sent its labor class. They lacked hunting, trapping, or fishing skills. They were mostly planters, coppersmiths, cobblers, etc. Completely unprepared to establish a foothold in the New World. And, wild game makes itself scarce in response to the slightest hunting pressure. Bang for the buck: I've heard it said, on average, it takes approximately 20 attempts before successfully harvesting a single deer or elk with modern weapons. That's a lot of wasted energy for very little venison. Dependent upon hunting? You are going to go hungry most of the time. Note to preppers: traps are the way to go. Quiet and efficient; working 24/7. No stalking. No wasted energy or ammo.
17 posted on 01/19/2014 6:04:13 AM PST by PowderMonkey (WILL WORK FOR AMMO)
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To: meadsjn

Fishing and Farming require skill. The original Jamestown colonists were adventurers and investors. They were there to make money and came in large measure from the gentry. The craftsmen were carpenters, blacksmiths, armorers, etc. They were unfamiliar with local crops and with farming in general. They didn’t have much of a chance.

Virginia, at the time of the landings, was in the midst of a severe drought. Crops failed, not only for the English settlers, but for the Indians as well. As the Indians were short of food themselves, they were less willing to barter with the English. In short, they were ill prepared for the hardships that they faced.


18 posted on 01/19/2014 6:10:46 AM PST by centurion316
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To: redfreedom

i don’t see the difference. Wounds on the girl were post- mortum. While the article is interesting the constant questioning broke any rhythm and was simply odd.


19 posted on 01/19/2014 6:21:00 AM PST by wiggen (The teacher card. When the racism card just won't work.)
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To: Renfield
The colony was founded in 1607 and by 1608 only 38 remained, the others succumbing to starvation and disease.

That is because the colony adopted socialism that first year. They had agreed to equally share the fruits of everyone else's labor. So many colonists thinking that someone else was growing food for them decided to go out looking for riches instead. When the first winter hit, they found themselves woefully short of food.

In the second year, they decided not to distribute equally, but instead decided that each person was responsible for his/herself if they wanted to survive the second winter. If a person wanted to eat, they needed to either produce their own food or trade with someone else for it.

That second winter, the colony survived, thanks to the evils of capitalism.

20 posted on 01/19/2014 6:33:15 AM PST by Hoodat (Democrats - Opposing Equal Protection since 1828)
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To: Hoodat

Thanks for that post. That is what I remember from taking the tour at Jamestown. We had a similar story here in California. A utopian group wanted to build a community among the Sequoias and earn their money by building a toll road and attracting tourists. They were not roadbuilders, they were upper middle class. Since it was socialist, they kept expecting somebody else was getting the work done. Soon, they were begging their relatives to send them money and supplies, as they were going hungry. The enterprise folded, of course.

Capitalism isn’t easy but it gets the job done.


21 posted on 01/19/2014 8:09:54 AM PST by married21 ( As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.)
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To: sr4402

The cut marks are too deep and narrow to have been made by stone tools.

The “Native Americans” didn’t eat that girl.

The ancestors of todays Libtards and parasitic classes ate her.


22 posted on 01/19/2014 8:40:34 AM PST by GladesGuru (Islam Delenda Est - because of what Islam is and because of what Muslims do.)
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To: married21
Socialism completely ignores human nature while capitalism fully accounts for it.

I was having an argument with a socialist once who insisted that man had an inherent need to work. I corrected him by saying that man had an inherent need to be rewarded for his work. If tasked with cutting down a tree and given the choice of a hand saw versus a chain saw, a man will choose the chain saw every time, minimizing the amount of work invested and putting to rest the lie of his inherent need to work.

For his reward (i.e. having the tree cut down), the reward is much greater for the amount of work invested utilizing the chain saw as opposed to the hand saw. Yet this socialist really believed that the hand saw was the better option for the good of society.

Socialism is madness.

23 posted on 01/19/2014 10:11:22 AM PST by Hoodat (Democrats - Opposing Equal Protection since 1828)
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To: Renfield

Some of the recipe books from that period for beef stew start out with add carrots, celery and 1 human....


24 posted on 01/19/2014 10:18:37 AM PST by minnesota_bound
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To: Renfield; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...
Thanks Renfield. And for dessert, lady fingers.

25 posted on 01/19/2014 11:57:05 AM PST by SunkenCiv (;http://www.freerepublic.com/~mestamachine/)
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To: Renfield

26 posted on 01/19/2014 12:01:28 PM PST by JoeProBono (SOME IMAGES MAY BE DISTURBING VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED;-{)
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To: Renfield

This is getting personal! (see tag)


27 posted on 01/19/2014 12:10:55 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic (Descended from a "First Supply" immigrant!)
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To: knarf
...apparently did nothing to feed themselves during the summer ...

Have you ever experienced summer at Jamestowne? I visited there one year in July, and it is just awful -- hot, humid, buggy, etc. I could barely breathe, and I was being transported on a tour wagon! Now, imagine that you are already severely weakened from illness and hiding from unfriendly Indians and think about how eager you are to work in the garden!

28 posted on 01/19/2014 12:15:18 PM PST by afraidfortherepublic (Descended from a "First Supply" immigrant!)
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To: JoeProBono

I can see the resemblance!


29 posted on 01/19/2014 1:35:23 PM PST by Rebelbase (Tagline: optional, printed after your name on post)
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To: SunkenCiv

“And for dessert, lady fingers.”

Dipped in toe jam!


30 posted on 01/19/2014 2:16:40 PM PST by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ( Ya can't pick up a turd by the clean end!)
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To: sr4402

...possibly an attempt to besmirch colonists long dead

&&&
There is always that possibility, given the progressives’ hatred of Western Civilization.


31 posted on 01/19/2014 3:56:31 PM PST by Bigg Red (O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Ps 8)
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To: JoeProBono

Well on the left she does look fetching for a lass of that time. The average man in 1608 wouldn’t have said so, but today one might call her “yummy”.


32 posted on 01/19/2014 4:16:56 PM PST by Notforprophet
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To: meadsjn

. . .and parked alongside an overwhelming abundance of seafood . . . .

* * *

You bring up an excellent question. Why couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t they fish? Or clam or go after lobster or whatever? I’m pretty ignorant of both fishing and the East Coast, so I can’t have any opinion myself, but I’d find it interesting if someone wants to explain this.


33 posted on 01/20/2014 12:48:19 AM PST by Hetty_Fauxvert (FUBO, and the useful idiots you rode in on!)
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To: SunkenCiv

Bread and Butter ....toast and jam....etc ....

http://m.dump.com/breadbutter/

Thanks for the ping !!!


34 posted on 01/20/2014 2:50:54 PM PST by Squantos ( Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet ...)
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To: Renfield

Apparently, their EBT cards had been depleted.


35 posted on 01/21/2014 11:56:42 AM PST by pabianice (LINE)
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To: Hoodat

If you want to call that socialism, than so is a corporation. The Virginia Company was a for-profit business, that the settlers were employees of.


36 posted on 01/21/2014 1:23:09 PM PST by JerseyanExile
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