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Teenage Girl's Skeleton Provides Definitive Proof of Cannibalism at Jamestown

Update Date: May 01, 2013 03:35 PM EDT
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Written accounts of early settlers' lives in the first American colonies pointed to cannibalism. However, up until recently, there was no scientific evidence that had occurred. That all changed when scientists discovered bones that likely belonged to a 14-year-old who lived in the Jamestown settlement. By the wounds on her body, particularly her skull, it appears that she is definitive proof for the cannibalism that occurred in the community during the starvation period at the beginning of the 17th century.

According to the Washington Post, her bones were found mixed with that of horses, dogs and squirrels, which is more proof of the desperate conditions in which the settlers found themselves during the winter of 1609 to 1610. Her remains were found in a cellar, likely scattered there when Lord de la Warr and his relief party arrived in 1610 and ordered a clean-up of the settlement, NBC News reports.

Researchers found the skull and a tibia of the girl, who has been named Jane by researchers. By examining her molars and the growth below her knee, researchers believe that she was about 14 years old. Isotopic testing reveals that she had eaten a diet primarily composed of wheat and meat, which indicate that she was of European ancestry, that she was either from a wealthy family or resided in the home of one as a servant and that she had very recently arrived from Europe.

Most jarringly, experts were able to identify chops to the forehead and cranium that would have opened up the skull, as they explain in a statement. There were also cuts to the jaw and cheek that indicated that someone would have pried off her flesh, as well as marks that indicated that her skull was pried open so that someone could eat her brain. All of these signs point to survival cannibalism; researchers say that it is impossible that an animal could have done the same.

Researchers have also managed to reconstruct the girl's face, though not right before her death - at which time she would have likely been extremely emaciated.

A video on the discovery can be seen below.

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