Settlers in Jamestown resorted to cannibalism to survive, archaeologists announced Tuesday.
A partial human skull and tibia, or shinbone, were excavated from a trash deposit from the early 1600s. Archaeologists say they provide scientific proof of cannibalism, announced the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg and Preservation Virginia Tuesday. While several written accounts of survival cannibalism in the American colonies exist, this is the first time that cannibalism has been proven by forensic evidence.
Police say the bone belong to a 14-year-old girl, who they are calling Jane. They found chops to her forehead and back of the cranium to open her head; knife cuts on her jaw and cheek indicating removal of the flesh; and markings indicating her head's left side was punctured and pried apart.
"Our team has discovered partial human remains before, but the location of the discovery, visible damage to the skull and marks on the bones immediately made us realize this finding was unusual," said Dr. Bill Kelso, chief archaeologist of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project who has been overseeing excavations at Jamestown for more than 20 years. "We approached the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History for further research because of their proven understanding of the contextual history in this part of Virginia."
A new exhibition opens Friday, May 3 at The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium at Historic Jamestowne to tell the story of "Jane" and the survival of Jamestown, England's first permanent settlement in America.
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