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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