Add cannibalism to list of Jamestown's claims to fame - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Add cannibalism to list of Jamestown's claims to fame


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.

READ the full press release on the discovery

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. 

WATCH archaeologists discuss the discovery on YouTube

"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."

They believe she arrived in Jamestown in August 1609. Scientists call the following winter the "starving time" at Jamestown, due to rampant sickness, starvation and Indian attacks. More than 200 men, women, and children crowded into James Fort and fought for survival. 

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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