Sunday, April 18, 2010

Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos 5Mtumr-2346 by Tim D. White

Excavations at a nearly 900-year-old pueblo in Colorado's Mancos Canyon in 1973 uncovered a mass of human bones bearing stark signs of violent death. Investigators noted crushed skulls, broken leg and arm bones, burned patches on some bones, and deep incisions made by sharpened stones. One team member raised the hackles of some antropologists and American Indian groups by reporting that the victims had probably been cannibalized.

A new analysis of the 2,106 pieces of bone retrieved from the Mancos site affirms that grisly conclusion. In the process, the author of the exhaustive study has reignited debate not only regarding whether prehistoric cannibalism existed, but whether scientists can, in essence, read the cannibal's "signature" in a pile of bones.

Someone -- apparently Anasazi Indians who inhabited the Mancos Canyon and other parts of the southwestern United States from A.D. 400 to A.D. 1300 -- cut up the recently deceased bodies of at least 17 adults and 12 children, cooked the pieces, and ate them, asserts anthropologist Tim D. White of the University of California, Berkeley. Damage to the skulls and neck bones indicates that decapitated heads were roasted on coals before diners cracked open the crania and removed the brains, White contends. Boiling in pots produced polished edges along some bones, and limb bones were split apart to obtain marrow, he maintains.

The Mancos bones do not represent an isolated instance of prehistoric cannibalism in the southwest, White adds. A similar pattern of damage characterizes human bones found at 18 other Anasazi sites, White concludes in Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos 5MTUMR-2346

No comments: