Crushing

Many different types of damage can be seen on bones left by human cannibals. When this damage is identical to that seen on animal bones at the same sites, archaeologists infer that the human remains were processed in the same manner and for the same reason: for consumption. In these metatarsal (foot) bones from Mancos Canyon in Colorado, the spongy tissues at the ends were crushed so that fat could be removed. (All the bones on the following pages are from the same Anasazi site in Mancos.)

son that damage to animal bones and their arrangement can clearly show that the animals had been slaughtered and eaten for food. And when human remains are unearthed in similar cultural contexts, with similar patterns of damage, discard and preservation, they may reasonably be interpreted as evidence of cannibalism.

When one mammal eats another, it usually leaves a record of its activities in the form of modifications to the consumed animal's skeleton. During life, varying amounts of soft tissue, much of it with nutritive value, cover mammalian bones. When the tissue is removed and prepared, the bones often retain a record of this processing in the form of gnawing marks and fractures. When humans eat other animals, however, they mark bones with more than just their teeth. They process carcasses with tools of stone or metal. In so doing, they leave imprints of their presence and actions in the form of scars on the bones. These the same culture—and checked against predictions embedded in ethnohistorical accounts.

This comparative system of determining cannibalism emphasizes multiple lines of osteological damage and contextual evidence. And, as noted earlier, it sets the standard for recognizing cannibalism very high. With this approach, for instance, the presence of cut marks on bones would not by themselves be considered evidence of cannibalism. For example, an American Civil War cemetery would contain skeletal remains with cut marks made by swords and bayonets. Medical school cadavers are dissected and their bones cut-marked.

With the threshold set so conservatively, most instances of past cannibalism will necessarily go unrecognized. A practice from Papua New Guinea, where cannibalism was recorded ethno-graphically, illustrates this point. There skulls of the deceased were carefully cleaned and the brains removed. The dry, mostly intact skulls were then handled extensively, often creating a polish on their projecting parts. They were sometimes painted and even mounted on poles for display and worship. Soft tissue, including brain matter, was eaten at the beginning of this process; thus, the practice would be identified as ritual cannibalism. If such skulls were encountered in an archaeological context without modern informants describing the cannibalism, they would not constitute direct evidence for cannibalism under the stringent criteria that my colleagues and I advocate.

Nevertheless, adoption of these standards of evidence has led us to some clear determinations in other, older situations. The best indication of prehistoric cannibalism now comes from the archaeological record of the American Southwest, where archaeologists have interpreted dozens of assemblages of human remains. Compelling evidence has also been found in Neolithic and Bronze

One of the challenges facing archaeologists is the amazing variety of ways in which people dispose of their dead.

same imprints can be seen on butchered human skeletal remains.

The key to recognizing human cannibalism is to identify the patterns of processing—that is, the cut marks, hammering damage, fractures or burns seen on the remains—as well as the survival of different bones and parts of bones. Nutritionally valuable tissues, such as brains and marrow, reside within the bones and can be removed only with forceful ham-mering—and such forced entry leaves revealing patterns of bone damage. When human bones from archaeological sites show patterns of damage uniquely linked to butchery by other humans, the inference of cannibalism is strengthened. Judging which patterns are consistent with dietary butchery can be based on the associated archaeological record— particularly the nonhuman food-animal remains discovered in sites formed by

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