The Virginia Colonists at Jamestown Practiced Cannibalism

Another chapter from my book 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know, inspired by historian Howard Zinn, who passed away earlier this year.

For more me, check out: The Memory Hole.

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Jamestown

During the harsh winter of 1609–1610, British subjects in the famous colony of Jamestown, Virginia, ate their dead and their shit. This fact doesn’t make it into very many U.S. history textbooks, and the state’s official website apparently forgot to mention it in their history section.

When you think about it rationally, this fact should be a part of mainstream history. After all, it demonstrates the strong will to survive among the colonists. It shows the mind-boggling hardships they endured and overcame. Yet the taboo against eating these two items is so overpowering that this episode can’t be mentioned in conventional history.

Luckily, an unconventional historian, Howard Zinn, revealed this fact in his classic, A People’s History of the United States. Food was so nonexistent during that winter, only 60 out of 500 colonists survived. A government document from that time gives the gruesome details:

Driven thru insufferable hunger to eat those things which nature most abhorred, the flesh and excrements of man as well of our own nation as of an Indian, digged by some out of his grave after he had lain buried three days and wholly devoured him; others, envying the better state of body of any whom hunger has not yet so much wasted as their own, lay wait and threatened to kill and eat them; one among them slew his wife as she slept in his bosom, cut her in pieces, salted her and fed upon her till he had clean devoured all parts saving her head.

Reference: Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

Read more Howard Zinn from disinformation, his essay “Columbus and Western Civilization” in the Russ Kick-edited anthology You Are Still Being Lied To.

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Look for more 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know in the next 50 days
under the tag “50 Things” on disinfo.com.

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  • tenmilesky

    called that shit.

  • jamacanmecrzy

    My American History II teacher issued Zinn's “A Peoples History of the United States” and “Voices of a Peoples History of the United States”. This class with these two books blew my mind and opened the hatch for all sorts of 'disinformation', Zinn pretty much airs out all the dirty laundry throughout America's history, this topic being no different. Both are very good books, even beyond reading in the class room–buy them!!

  • Word Eater

    Eating crap can't possibly be good for you, can it? It is, by nature, stuff another human body rejected as waste.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/PDDVWRQVUPMKRGHURIEQVNYWHQ Sean

      people will eat all kinds of things if they are hungry enough.

      • tonyviner

        Ron Burgundy ate cat poop.

  • slee

    its very interesting to see what was held back from public knowledge then, just imagine what is held back today – its only the tip of a very large iceberg – mind boggling ! thanks for sharing

  • Hong

    Eating excrement has been documented by archaeologists who specialize in Southwest US Native American culture. Because food was scarce during parts of the year, and the air is very dry, excrement dehydrates quickly. It then gets winnowed to remove the corn and other matter that hadn’t been broken down by the body. Being resourcesful in times of starvation probably saved many lives.

  • Hong

    Eating excrement has been documented by archaeologists who specialize in Southwest US Native American culture. Because food was scarce during parts of the year, and the air is very dry, excrement dehydrates quickly. It then gets winnowed to remove the corn and other matter that hadn't been broken down by the body. Being resourcesful in times of starvation probably saved many lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531150474 Mark Douglas Jones

    Very interesting! But, I thought women did not arrive until 1619.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531150474 Mark Douglas Jones

    Very interesting! But, I thought women did not arrive until 1619.

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