The Loh Down On Science

Science verifies a grisly rumor about Jamestown

Were early American settlers cannibals?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science saying, the grisly answer is . . . sometimes, yes.

Jamestown was one of the earliest European settlements in North America, and times were tough. No iPads, no Funyuns....

In the winter of 1609, in fact, the freezing settlers were out of food and besieged by hundreds of Powhatan Indians.  To survive, they ate horses, dogs—even rats and snakes.  But when those ran out.  . . .  Rumor has it they resorted to digging up and consuming their dead.  But no physical evidence has been found to back that up . . .  until now.

Smithsonian Museum scientists have just finished examining the skull of a fourteen-year-old settler they’re calling Jane. (Her skull and shinbone are all that have been found thus far.)  They say Jane’s face was cut, post-mortem, in a manner consistent with how one would butcher an animal.  But much more tentatively.  Can't have been easy.

I don't know about you, but this Thanksgiving I'm going with Tofurkey.  And squash with marshmallows.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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I don't know about you, but this Thanksgiving I'm going with the Tofurkey and squash with marshamallows.


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