Definitive evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown

Sarah Hofmann Contributor
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The bones of a 14-year-old girl living in Jamestown colony were presented Wednesday as proof that early settlers turned to cannibalism during the “starving time.”

The skeleton was shown, alongside a recreation of the head of the girl dubbed Jane, at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, The Washington Post reported.

The bones show definitive marks of butchering that would only serve the purpose of cutting up the body for consumption, researchers said. Douglas Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, was asked if the marking could have been made by animal foragers or for another purpose.

“Not a chance,” he replied. “I deal with this all the time. Not a chance.”

Owsley said with confidence the dissector or dissectors were right-handed, the Post reported.

There have been written reports of cannibalism occurring in Jamestown during the difficult winter of 1609-1610, but never any physical evidence before. The previous reports have included eating the dead, exhuming corpses days later and one grisly instance of a man killing his wife and salting her.

300 people lived in the fort enclosure at the beginning of the winter, and only 60 remained by springtime. Jane’s skeleton are scheduled to be put on display at Jamestown’s museum Friday.

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Sarah Hofmann