Colonial Cannibals

Reconstructed face of Jamestown settler
Reconstructed face of Jamestown settler

It was proven and confirmed on Wednesday that the early settlers of Colonial America resulted to cannibalism as a way to help their survival. Forensic evidence found from an excavation site at Jamestown, Virginia, where human remains were found in a trash deposit, proves what was only talked about in a few written accounts.

Just a couple of years after first arriving at the “new world” colonist were ill-prepared for what they were to face over the next few years. Native Americans, poor farming and mother nature all helped decimate the colony to a very bare existence. With little to no food, they had to ensure their survival somehow. It could be hard to hear for some, even harder to believe for others, but without being in the same position 400 years ago who knows what lengths people would go to live.

The revelation, released by the Smithsonian Institute, Colonial Williamsburg and Preservation Virginia, found a partial human skull and tibia during an excavation. The remains were dated to the year 1609, specifically in the winter months where a period called the “starving time” saw hundreds of colonist meet their demise from various causes of death.

The chief archaeologist of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project thought the finding of the bones were unusual because of where they were found, the damage to the skull and marks on the bones. There were chops to the forehead, signs to indicate butchering, knife cuts to the jaw and cheek indicating removal of flesh and even evidence that the head was pried open.

The remains look to be of a 14-year-old European girl, who is being called “Jane”. She was one of the few women and children that populated the Jamestown settlement that reached anywhere from a couple of dozen to as many as 500 throughout its first few years as a settlement.

After first landing and establishing in May 1607, the settlers found out quickly that the site picked for the settlement wasn’t immediately good for long-term sustainability. Close to two hundred died from disease, bad water and starvation.

Two supply missions over the next two years would come from England, but they brought more settlers than supplies. After loosing their fearless leader John Smith to injury back to England, their main connection to the goodwill of the local natives fell apart. Skirmishes ensued which further proved to be detrimental to their health. A third supply mission failed to make it there after a shipwreck. After the harsh winter in 1610, Jamestown numbers were down from 500 to just 61. Many met absolutely horrid deaths. We now know their remains were eaten along with horses and dogs.

Not for nothin’ but this proves the saying, desperate times call for desperate measures. Cannibalism is thought to be immoral behavior at best. It is condemn and only remains in the rarest of primitive cultures. Many see it as barbaric in nature. But realize, the real barbarism would be the murder and then consumption of the flesh. Waiting until the death of someone, then eating them, only after its found that there’s no other viable option for sustenance, could be warranted. Again, you have to be faced with survival mode to know what would be done in that situation. What would be your point of last resort?

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