When you think about the first British settlers in America, you may conjure up imagery of “Jolly Old England,” sailors cries echoing confirmation of a new land or perhaps simple village settlements and strictly regimented moral peasantry.
New forensic examination of the four hundred year old skull and tibia of a fourteen year old girl dubbed “Jane” has eerily exposed that the first permanent American settlers from Britain certainly engaged in cannibalism in Jamestown during the winter of 1609-10, historically know as the “Starving Time.” The bones, found in a cellar that had been filled with refuse at James Fort, Virginia showed evidence “absolutely consistent with dismemberment and de-fleshing” said Doug Owsley, a forensic anthropologist who lead the investigation at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In other words, signs that this fourteen year old girl had been butchered like livestock.
Dr. Owsley stated that “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 purpose was to extract the brain. 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.”
These marks also seem to indicate whoever butchered this girl, hesitated in their work. Seemingly indicating that the person who committed this atrocity was not a butcher by trade.
While the exact circumstances surrounding how Jane met her death are uncertain, it is certain that her butchery took place shortly thereafter. Whether or not she died naturally or was killed before being butchered may forever remain a mystery.
The examination further revealed that at one point Jane was well nourished and had eaten relatively large quantities of meat, indicative of a person of higher social status and wealth.
The “Starving Time” was a horrific time of human starvation that took place in James Fort from 1609-1610. A time where people became so desperate that they resorted to eating their house pets, their horses, even their own shoes. The settlers were under attack by the native Americans and cut off from any food source. Jane almost undoubtedly wasn’t the only victim of cannibalism during this dark period in American history. Historic records from the time seem to hint at, but not fully admit it’s presence.
By the time supplies were brought in, only 60 of the original 300 inhabitants remained living.
Details about who Jane was or anything relating to her life is unknown. However, scientists have been able to digitally recreate what she would have looked like using her skull as a guide.
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