Is cannibalism the seed from which the United States sprang? Historical accounts have long hinted that the settlers at Jamestown, the first English colony in America, survived the harsh winter by feasting on the dead. Via CNN, researchers now have physical evidence in the form of bodily remains:
The winter of 1609 to 1610 was treacherous for early American settlers. Some 240 of the 300 colonists at Jamestown, in Virginia, died during this period, called the “Starving Time.” Desperate times led to desperate measures. New evidence suggests that includes eating the flesh of fellow colonists.
Archaeologists revealed Wednesday their analysis of 17th century skeletal remains suggesting that settlers practiced cannibalism to survive. Researchers unearthed an incomplete human skull and tibia in 2012 that contain several features suggesting that this particular person had been cannibalized. The remains come from a 14-year-old girl of English origin, whom historians are calling “Jane.”
There are about half a dozen accounts that mention cannibalistic behaviors at that time. The newly analyzed remains support these accounts, providing the first forensic evidence of cannibalism in the American colonies.
Researchers say it looks like someone had tried, but failed to open the skull with four shallow chops to the forehead. The back of the skull contains markings that could have been made by a small hatchet or cleaver striking it. The skull’s mandible contains cuts all over it and inside, which experts say reflect an attempt to take tissue off of the face and throat with a tool such as a knife. The cheek area reflects a “sawing action” of a tool going back and forth.
It is possible that more than one person was involved in this, given the disparity in butchering practices seen in the head compared to the shin bone.