12-08-18 Cannibals

During the harsh winter of 1609-1610, the settlers at Jamestown had alienated their native neighbors to the point of making it deadly for them to venture outside the protected walls of their fort. Combine that with quickly dwindling food sources, rampant disease, and unhealthy drinking water, the remaining settlers barely clung to survival. When provisions finally arrived in the spring, only about a quarter of them were found alive. In the years that have followed, there were rumors and talk that those settlers had resorted to cannibalism to survive, but with no physical evidence it couldn’t be proven.

Until recently, when the remains of a fourteen year old girl were discovered to have violent post mortem trauma indicative of cannibalism.

Her skull and part of her leg bone are on display at a museum on the site of the original Jamestown State House.

History can be a gruesome business, as was confirmed to me while we sat through a lecture on the history of the first permanent English settlement in America. As I listened to the ranger weave her tale within the footprint of a long destroyed tavern, I wondered what kept the settlers in that unfortunate location after such a traumatizing experience. Why not pack up and go home? Why not move to higher ground?

After the talk, Tim and I explored the settlement, (quickly as the temperature hovered above freezing), walked through the museum, and took a slow drive around the island taking in so much of our early collective history…

When we were done, we were cold to our core and ready for food. We made our way to our room and had dinner. Now I’m fighting sleep, because falling asleep means tomorrow takes us home and that seems way too soon. This weekend was perfect… except for maybe the cannibals!

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