During my years of genealogical research, I’ve discovered numerous ‘ skeletons in the closet ‘ and scandals that at a shorter distance in time would be hard to deal with.
Separated by decades and even centuries, however, a lot of these misdeeds become more titillating and not quite as scandalous.
I’ve found polygamy, traitorous acts, murders, affairs, embezzlement and theft in our family tree.
The one thing I haven’t discovered up to now is cannibalism and I’ve been so glad this is the case.
My worst nightmare was to discover that we had some connection to the Donner party, whose story of cannibalism for survival I find particularly disturbing.
In the recent past, though, I learned that there may very well have been cannibalism over three centuries, or at least a familial connection to it.
A press release from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation had claimed they, the Smithsonian Institution and Preservation Virginia can confirm that survival cannibalism has been scientifically proven to have existed in colonial America.
Although there have been written descriptions of cannibalism, this is the first scientific proof ever to have been found. Dr. Bill Kelso, Chief Archaeologist of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project at the time, approached the Smithsonian Institution to research the possibility.
Chop marks on the forehead and back of the skull, evidence of knife cuts to the cheek and jaw, all indicate the act of flesh removal.
These, along with evidence pointing to the left side of the skull having been pried apart are indicators of cannibalism.
These findings and the location in which the remains were found are particularly disturbing to me because my husband and kids are distantly descended to John Rolfe from ‘Pocahontas’ fame – an original settler of Jamestown.
Specifically, the skull of a fourteen year old girl was one of those previously discovered in Jamestown during the original archaeological investigations.
Her skull bears the marks and abrasions that indicate she was a victim of survival cannibalism.