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In Brief

Jamestown Settlers Practiced Cannibalism

damaged skull from cannibalization
The mutilated skull of a 14-year old girl who may have been cannibalized in the Jamestown colony (Image credit: YouTube, Jamestown Rediscovery Project)

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that the Jamestown settlers practiced cannibalism.

Researchers excavating at Jamestown fort discovered the mutilated skull and severed leg bone of a 14-year-old girl they have dubbed Jane. The bones were scattered amongst butchered dog and animal bones. Forensic analysis suggests the girl likely died of disease or starvation before she was eaten.

Written accounts from the time period reported instances of cannibalism during the "starving time," a brutal winter between 1609 and 1610, but most historians thought these were tall tales designed to get more money from Britain flowing to the colonies, Bill Kelso, chief archaeologist of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, told U.S. News and World Report.

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Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.