- Despite John Smith’s heroic accounts, the 1607 English settlement at Jamestown (VA) was just hard and not at well planned. Food? Scarce for many reasons, but on starving, cannibalism became a option. (See The New York Times, 2-May-2013.) Not surprising really, since humans in extremity will resort to survival by any means. The same happened more recently in the 19th century during the Donner Party expedition.
More interesting is James Horn’s perspective in a followup NY Times Op-Ed article (4-May-2013), which suggests that while the English settlers feared cannibalism by the American Natives, in fact, they projected it, and ironically they themselves were forced to practice it.
Cannibalism Uncovered at Jamestown Settlement
The most exciting scientific find of the period was Charles Willson Peale’s exhumation in 1801 near Newburgh, New York, of the bones of the mastodon, or mammoth. Peale displayed his mammoth in his celebrated museum and in 1806 painted a marvelous picture of what was perhaps the first organized exhumation in American history. Peale’s discovery electrified the country and put the word
mammoth on everybody’s lips. A Philadelphia baker advertised the sale of
mammoth bread. In Washington a
mammoth eater ate forty-two eggs in ten minutes. And under the leadership of the Baptist preacher John Leland, the ladies of Cheshire, Massachusetts, late in 1801 sent to President Jefferson a
mammoth cheese, six feet in diameter and nearly two feet thick and weighing 1,230 pounds.