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Sunday, September 4, 2016
Troubles & Cannibalism in the New World by Katherine Pym
Jamestown House c. 1630
I’ve decided one of the
reasons it took so long to get the original settlers off the ground and their
colonies successful was due to their origins. Merchants wanted money and power
and they felt they could get it by banding together to outfit a fleet of ships and
send men to the North America. Their money would establish these settlements. Their
money would insure the men in these new settlements would give a great return
for the merchants’ investments.
There were several merchant companies
that ranged up and down the East Coast of North America. Given grants by their
monarch, they considered the land theirs from Florida to Newfoundland to do
with as they pleased. The colonists were ‘employees’ of these companies. They
had to obey what the merchant companies dictated. With the spoils, these
merchants in turn, were to give wealth and power to their monarch.
Men came first, then women. They
used the tools and supplies provided by the merchant company to build, to trap
furs as payment to the merchants. If the colonists found the passage to the
Northwest and the Pacific, if they found gold or silver, these, too, were to be
given to the merchants.
Merchant companies did not
provide well for the extremes that pervaded this new land; i.e., harsh winters,
unyielding soil, wild beasts and the original peoples who could turn violent.
It seemed little thought was
given to establishing long term settlements. To do this, one must have tools and
the know-how to use these tools to build new tools and implement them into the
task at hand. They must have livestock, not for eating but for breeding. When
the herd could provide, then the colonists could eat. They must learn the type
of seeds that would grow in their soil, their climate.
Settlers relied on the
merchants returning each spring/early summer with clothing, food, more
implements, powder and shot for their guns. If the governments changed during
this time, or the merchant company disbanded, if it took years to obtain more
money, sometimes merchants did not return, or if they did, it was years later. This
put the colonists at great risk.
Many died of starvation. In
the latest archeological digs, signs of cannibalism have been discerned.
George Percy, of early
Jamestown, wrote how badly life was. He sadly mentioned people were so hungry,
they dug up corpses and ate them.
Capt. John Smith wrote: “One
amongst the rest did kill his wife, powdered (salted) her, and had eaten part
of her before it was known, for which he was executed, as he well deserved...
Now whether she was better roasted, boiled or carbonado’d (barbecued), I know
not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of.”
In the spring of 2013,
archeologists revealed they had located the first evidence of cannibalism
with the discovery of a 14 year old (Jamestown circa 1609-10). Found in a
refuse pile, her remains showed she had recently died.
Someone, or several, cleaved at
her body and head. She was dismembered and her flesh removed. Knife tips gouged
away at her skull and chin as if to cut away her tongue or throat tissue. “Her brain, tongue,
cheeks and leg muscles were eaten, with the brain likely eaten first, because
it decomposes so quickly after death.”
The clumsy attempts to cut
away flesh shows whoever had done this had never butchered an animal for food.
This was done by people desperate enough to eat another human being after she
The skull was restructured,
so you can see what she looked like. Due to copyright issues I’m not sure if I
can share this young girl’s picture.