Remains Uncovered Of 14-Year-Old Girl Cannibalized At Jamestown Colony

jamestown cannibalismIs 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.

10 Comments on "Remains Uncovered Of 14-Year-Old Girl Cannibalized At Jamestown Colony"

  1. citizen_watch | May 5, 2013 at 10:43 am |

    Note for future astronauts, bring rabbits with you.

    • alizardx | May 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

      What killed off some US colonies and endangered others? Transit times between colonies and their home bases.

      If it takes months between “we’re in deep shit” and help from home, by the time a colony can send for help from home and when that aid can be delivered, it is indeed possible that the intended recipients will be corpses.

      Intercontinental US colonization became routine and workable when oceanic transportation technology in terms of ship designs and navigation improved.

      The critical tech which might make the difference between viable interplanetary Mars colonies and “Cannibals of Mars!” (think about Elon Musk’s planned vegetarian colony) is a continuous acceleration space drive which takes Earth-Mars transit times down from months to weeks. (or days if a 1G drive is available)

      “Cannibals of Mars!” might make a great name for an industrial band.

      • VaudeVillain | May 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

        Even with a transit time of months, we already have communications technology that will allow a distress signal to arrive almost instantaneously.

        Had the colonists been able to instantly communicate their needs, the one-way lag would likely have been manageable… but twice was just insurmountable.

        • alizardx | May 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

          True, but one-way transit time for Earth > Mars transit by rocket, especially if the timing is bad enough (say, at opposition) that the ship has to take the maximum possible transit time is enough to turn an uncomfortable situation into extermination.

          “The crate of can openers was left behind” = funny. “Design fail in life support module design means they all fail in 45 days instead of the 30 days they were tested for” with replacement parts sent by rocket = disaster.

  2. BuzzCoastin | May 5, 2013 at 11:12 am |

    when the colonists arrived
    the American Indians had cultivated food forests
    from the East Coast to the end of the Prairie
    for “hunting & gathering” was working hard a few hours a week
    the colonists destroyed the food forests

    and started using industrial agriculture farming
    to grow tobacco and some food
    and that led to starvation & cannibalism
    hint hint

    • Jin The Ninja | May 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm |

      cannibalism- 400 years later, and still at the heart of WASP values?

      • BuzzCoastin | May 5, 2013 at 9:23 pm |

        it really is
        wee have been cannibalizing our resources at a rate
        that even leave Lemmings in shock

      • The Well Dressed Man | May 6, 2013 at 2:47 am |

        Scapegoating entire ethnic groups is hardly a “value” in need of promotion, detrimental in this context and by itself.

        • Jin The Ninja | May 6, 2013 at 2:55 am |

          lol. a bit of forum humour.
          regardless, i was hardly ‘scapegoating.’
          more like satirizing.
          which in historical context to how english colonials treated the land and the indigenous population- and in modern context to how americans treat not just their land but the entire world- and its non-compliant populations, often indigenous, often marginalised…

          from there you can see it works on several levels;)

  3. Intercontinental US colonization became routine and workable when
    oceanic transportation technology in terms of ship designs and
    navigation improved.


    Guild Wars 2 Gold

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