TIM D. WHITE is co-director of the Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a professor in Berkeley's department of integrative biology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. White co-directs the Middle Awash research project in Ethiopia. His research interests are human paleontology, Paleolithic archaeology, and the interpretation of bone modification in contexts ranging from prehistoric archaeology to contemporary forensic situations.

In 1979 anthropologist William Arens of the State University of New York at Stony Brook extended this theme by reviewing the ethnographic record of cannibalism in his book The Man-Eating Myth. Arens concluded that accounts of cannibalism among people from the Aztec to the Maori to the Zulu were either false or inadequately documented. His skeptical assertion has subsequently been seriously questioned, yet he nonetheless succeeded in identifying a significant gulf between these stories and evidence of cannibalism: "Anthropology has not maintained the usual standards of documentation and intellectual rigor expected when other topics are being considered. Instead, it has chosen uncritically to lend its support to the collective representations and thinly disguised prejudices of western culture about others."

The anthropologists whom Arens was criticizing had not limited themselves to contemporary peoples. Some had projected their prejudices even more deeply—into the archaeological record. Interpretations of cannibalism inevitably followed many discoveries of prehistoric remains. In 1871 American author Mark Twain weighed in on the subject in an essay later published in Life as I Find It: "Here is a pile of bones of primeval man and beast all mixed together, with no more damning evidence that the man ate the bears than that the bears ate the man—yet paleontology holds a coroner's inquest in the fifth geologic period on an 'unpleasantness' which transpired in the quaternary, and calmly lays it on the MAN, and then adds to it what purports to be evidence of CANNIBALISM. I ask the candid reader, Does not this look like taking advantage of a gentleman who has been dead two million years____"

In the century after Twain's remarks, archaeologists and physical anthropologists described the hominids Australopithecus africanus, Homo erectus and H. neanderthalensis as cannibalistic. According to some views, human prehistory from about three million years ago until very recently was rife with cannibalism.

But in the early 1980s an important critical assessment of these conclusions appeared. Archaeologist Lewis Binford's book Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths argued that claims for early hom-inid cannibalism were unsound. He built on the work of other prehistorians concerned with the composition, context and modifications of Paleolithic bone assemblages. Binford emphasized the need to draw accurate inferences about past behaviors by grounding knowledge of the past on experiment and observation in the present. His influential work coupled skepticism with a plea for methodological rigor in studies of prehistoric cannibalism.

Standards of Evidence

IT WOULD BE HELPFUL if we could turn to modern-day cannibals with our questions, but such opportunities have largely disappeared. So today's study of this intriguing behavior must be accomplished through a historical science. Archaeology has therefore become the primary means of investigating the existence and extent of human cannibalism.

One of the challenges facing archaeologists, however, is the amazing variety of ways in which people dispose of their dead. Bodies may be buried, burned, placed on scaffolding, set adrift, put in tree trunks or fed to scavengers. Bones may be disinterred, washed, painted, buried in bundles or scattered on stones. In parts of Tibet, future archaeologists will have difficulty recognizing any mortuary practice at all. There most corpses are dismembered and fed to vultures and other carnivores. The bones are then collected, ground into powder, mixed with barley and flour and again fed to vultures. Given the various fates of bones and bodies, distinguishing cannibalism from other mortuary practices can be quite tricky.

Scientists have thus set the standard for recognizing ancient cannibalism very high. They confirm the activity when the processing patterns seen on human remains match those seen on the bones of other animals consumed for food. Archaeologists have long argued for such a comparison between human and faunal remains at a site. They rea-

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