The discovery of parts of a human skull along with a tibia confirmed that cannibalism took place not more than 300 years back in Jamestown, Virginia. The exploration of a trash zone led to the unearthing by scientists of relics of this horrendous act. The 17the century garbage heap was the site of extreme circumstances. Drought, illness and attacks by American Indians were the cause of over 200 deaths of men, women and children.
Jane's Story on the Historic Jamestowne describes that it was a bid for survival that was prolonged and led to a great deal of desperation. There have been previous texts that pointed out the sporadic existence of cannibalism in America, but this is the first forensic report that gives conclusive evidence of the repulsive practice.
The finding was peculiar in that it was the first extensive effort by researchers from various disciplines (archaeology, history and forensics) to delve into the disagreeable subject. The way the skull was damaged by weapons such as knives showed that the whole purpose of the wounds was to devour the contents.
Moreover, the shocking evidence pointed towards the victim as being a female. The research group named the victim “Jane” for identification purposes. DNA profiling has been carried out too. The proof shows that she arrived in Jamestown during a time of aridity and starvation. The times of scarcity were supplemented by a siege led by the Indian raids.
Cornered with no place to go and lacking in comestible resources the last resort for the survivors was none other than survival cannibalism. Rather than face the unthinkable in the form of extinction via starvation the survivors decided to turn towards primitive methods of survival. Cannibalism as a final and extreme option was the choice of many. The skull of Jane was hit several times and finally it was cracked open to reveal the brain which was then consumed.
The very thought is quite emetic in nature. However, when you go deeper into the foul situation that took place that winter in Jamestown you realize that extreme conditions elicit extreme responses. Since self-preservation is the first law of life, when push comes to shove rational people will behave irrationally just to keep body and soul together. This is a fact of life no matter how bitter it might appear to be at first glimpse.
There have been a number of times in the past when cannibalism took place and it has been noted down in world literature. When Napoleon’s troops withdrew in the Russian winter there were such incidents. More recent examples include the Argentina team of football players whose plane crashed in the middle of nowhere a few decades back. They had to rely on eating their dead companions’ flesh in order to survive. This is captured in the book “Alive” which is a vivid story of their ordeal.
Cannibalism for survival reasons is understandable. But when such cases as Jeffrey Dahmer emerge from the mists of our city life it appears to be a travesty of reasonability and rationality. This has been well documented in detail in the 90s movie “The Silence of the Lambs” which portrays the actress Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins as the psychopath “Hannibal the Cannibal”. Our city life with its unnatural environment and ugly behavior is the cause of this sort of meaningless cannibalism which is just the opposite of its survival variant.