Jamestown settlers ‘turned to cannibalism’, evidence suggests

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Human bones discovered in a rubbish pit show evidence that the first permanent English settlers in North America turned to cannibalism, according to researchers. The remains of a teenage girl, found in James Fort, Virginia, featured cuts consistent with butchering, which experts believe would have taken place in the harsh winter of 1609-1610. Although analysis of written records had previously suggested that the struggling colonists resorted to cannibalism, the discovery represents what could be the first scientific proof.

Doug Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, said: “There were numerous chops and cuts – chops to the forehead, chops to the back of the skull and also a puncture to the left side of the head that was used to essentially pry off that side. The clear intent was to remove the facial tissue and the brain for consumption. These people were in dire circumstances, so any flesh that was available would have been used.”

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Image credits: University of South Carolina (Fitzgerald); University of Leicester (Richard head)