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
Local

Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…

National

The best places to see the Northern Lights…

A large solar storm hit the Earth's atmosphere and will tonight illuminate the skies with aurora borealis -- also known as the Northern Lights.

Local

Police officer killed Sunday morning Bronx crash, 8…

One NYPD police officer was killed and eight other officers were injured early Sunday morning when the van they were traveling in crashed  in the…

National

Pennsylvania police shooter manhunt near home of suspect's…

A police manhunt intensified on Friday for the gunman who killed an officer and wounded another in an ambush at a Pennsylvania police barracks a week ago.

Television

'How to Get Away with' mischaracterizing Shondra Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes read Alessandra Stanley's New York Times piece about her being "an angry black woman" and "a romance writer" and it did not sit well with her.

Gossip

New nude celebrity selfies leak … and Clay…

A new batch of nude selfies of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Lake Bell and Avril Lavigne hit the web and Clay Aiken has something to say!

Television

James Spader's route to villainy on "The Blacklist"

In honor of the second season premiere of "The Blacklist" tonight, where James Spader plays good guy/bad guy Raymond “Red” Reddington, it’s a good time to look back at Spader’s…

Television

True Detective

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

NFL

Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…

NFL

Rashad Jennings carries Giants in first win this…

Rashad Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese.

NFL

3 things we learned as Giants pick up…

The Giants picked up their first win of the season over the Texans.

Career

Here's how to make the most of visit…

You’re primped, you’re looking polished, you’re prepared with a stack of resumes. Job fair hunters, unite! There are a few things to keep in mind…

Education

Learn how to study effectively and stop cramming…

Picture this: It’s midterm week, and college students everywhere are trying to frantically memorize all of the math formulas, political theories and historical facts that…

Parenting

How motherhood inspired Bethenny Frankel's new book

Bethenny Frankel's new children's book is about how her daughter and dog didn't always get alone.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.