Jamestown colony settlers were cannibals – study

The reconstructed features of 'Jane', a 14-year-old English girl dismembered and eaten by settlers in 1609 Jamestown, Virginia
The reconstructed features of ‘Jane’, a 14-year-old English girl dismembered and eaten by settlers in 1609 Jamestown, Virginia

Settlers at Virginia’s Jamestown Colony resorted to cannibalism to survive the harsh winter of 1609, dismembering and consuming a 14-year-old English girl, the U.S. Smithsonian Institution reported today.

A recent excavation at the historic site revealed not just the remains of dogs, cats and horses eaten by settlers during the cold “Starving Time” of that year, but also the bones of a girl known to researchers simply as “Jane.”

This is the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent colony in the Americas, the Smithsonian said on its website.

The institution is the biggest museum and research complex in the world with 19 museums and galleries, most of them in Washington. It also includes the National Zoo.

“Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened here,” said Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Douglas Owls, who analyzed the bones after they were found by Preservation Virginia, a private nonprofit group.

“Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it’s clear that this body was dismembered for consumption,” Owls said in the online announcement at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Starving-Settlers-in-Jamestown-Colony-Resorted-to-Eating-A-Child-205472161.html .

It is unknown whether “Jane” was murdered or died of natural causes, whether several people or just one person participated in what the announcement called “the butchering.”

“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” Owls said. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”

The brain, tongue, cheeks and leg muscles appear to have been eaten, with the brain probably consumed first because it decomposes soon after death, the announcement said.

Scholars have speculated that extreme drought, hostile relations with the local Powhatan Confederacy and a lost supply ship made the Jamestown colonists desperate enough to eat humans. Writings had suggested it, but no hard physical evidence existed until now.

William Keelson, lead archeologist on the project, and his team discovered the girl’s remains last summer.

“We found a deposit of refuse that contained butchered horse and dog bones,” Keelson said. “That was only done in times of extreme hunger. As we excavated, we found human teeth and then a partial human skull.”

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Xavier Briand)


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.