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Earth Science

Were Neanderthals Devoured By Humans? 502

Posted by timothy
from the subsumed-or-consumed dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian reports that a Neanderthal jawbone covered in cut marks similar to those left behind when flesh is stripped from deer provides crucial evidence that humans attacked Neanderthals, and sometimes killed them, bringing back their bodies to caves to eat or to use their skulls or teeth as trophies. 'For years, people have tried to hide away from the evidence of cannibalism, but I think we have to accept it took place,' says Fernando Rozzi, of Paris's Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique. According to Rozzi, a discovery at Les Rois in south-west France provides compelling support for that argument. Previous excavations revealed bones that were thought to be exclusively human. But Rozzi's team re-examined them and found one they concluded was Neanderthal." (Continued, below.)
"Importantly, it was covered in cut marks similar to those left behind when flesh is stripped using stone tools. Not every team member agrees. 'One set of cut marks does not make a complete case for cannibalism,' says Francesco d'Errico, of the Institute of Prehistory in Bordeaux. It was also possible that the jawbone had been found by humans and its teeth used to make a necklace, he said. 'This is a very important investigation,' said Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London. 'This does not prove we systematically eradicated the Neanderthals or that we regularly ate their flesh. But it does add to the evidence that competition from modern humans probably contributed to Neanderthal extinction.'"
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Were Neanderthals Devoured By Humans?

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  • by Shakrai (717556) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:25PM (#27990753) Journal

    Cannibalism: The act or practice of eating human flesh by mankind

    H. neanderthalensis != H. sapiens

    • by fyoder (857358) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:33PM (#27990823) Homepage Journal

      H. neanderthalensis != H. sapiens

      Nope, but Homo sapiens neanderthalensis is darn close. If you saw one shaved and wearing a suit your first thought wouldn't be "Mmmm, lunch!". Unless you're a cannibal, that is.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:47PM (#27990945)

        If I saw a cow shaved and wearing a suit my first thought wouldn't be "Mmmm, lunch!" either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Comatose51 (687974)
        Do humans eat chimps or gorillas? Or is the similarity too much for us to stomach (pun partially intended)?
        • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:23PM (#27991177)

          Yep.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_meat [wikipedia.org]

          Being eaten by humans is the single greatest threat to Bonobos, arguably the closest primate relative we humans have.

          • by psnyder (1326089) on Monday May 18, 2009 @01:44AM (#27991847)
            The Bonobo can understand fairly complex English, read & write simple ideograms, and play Pac-man. [ted.com]

            I may be a meat eater, but any species that can run away from ghosts in a virtual maze and knows to chase them after eating power-pellets is off my menu.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by JohnBailey (1092697)

          Do humans eat chimps or gorillas? Or is the similarity too much for us to stomach (pun partially intended)?

          Yes. Do a search on bush meat. Not so common outside the areas where the other primates are not indigenous. But meat is meat. Just about any animal that lives near humans and isn't toxic has been eaten at some point, and often comes to be a regular item on the menu.

          Cannibalism has never been a nutritional thing though. Usually last ditch attempt for survival in extreme conditions or ceremonial. This finding just suggests it went on earlier than previously thought

          • by Ira Sponsible (713467) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:05AM (#27992207) Journal

            But meat is meat. Just about any animal that lives near humans and isn't toxic has been eaten at some point, and often comes to be a regular item on the menu.

            I thought about that Twilight Zone episode where the twist was that "To Serve Man" was actually a cookbook. I figured this was totally backward after watching a lot of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods show. There seems to be almost no living thing (an isn't deadly toxic) that humans won't eat. I think it's actually the aliens out there that would have to worry about us eating them, we've already tried everything edible on this planet.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Chris Burke (6130)

              There seems to be almost no living thing (an isn't deadly toxic) that humans won't eat.

              And even then we might go to great lengths to remove the toxins either by preparation, or even by breeding versions that aren't toxic. See almonds.

              I think it's actually the aliens out there that would have to worry about us eating them, we've already tried everything edible on this planet.

              And we only figured out what was edible by trying everything else.

              Seriously, you have to wonder. There was a person out there who sai

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Reziac (43301) *

              Being omnivorous scavengers is a great deal of why we're so successful as a species: Humans can and will make do with damnear any diet that approaches nutritious, or can be processed into being nutritious, even when other species can't make it. It may not be optimal but it'll be good enough for reproduction, and that's all nature cares about.

    • go to any number of african towns and you'll find guys coming back from the jungle with monkey parts to eat. its called bushmeat

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushmeat#Effect_on_Great_Apes [wikipedia.org]

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:21PM (#27991153)

        Dude, what is UP with your movie already? It seems like you've been pushing this movie you're supposedly making (over at K5 and now, I guess, here too) for at least three years now. Are you seriously ever going to come out with a movie, or are you just jerking off over there?

        Not that I really want to watch it, but I'm getting tired of seeing you brag about the fact that you're a hip indie filmmaker in your sig. What a douchebag.

    • Well, let's think about your question. sapiens and neanderthals are like cousins, so it would be like eating a cousin... would you eat your cousin? Would you call that cannibalism? You know, since we are using spacious reasoning for now, I would also like to propose that neanderthals were major geeks. As I imagine it, this is how it went down. Joe Sapien and Richard M.S. Neanderthal were hanging out one day like they always did. rich was helping joe with a abacus virus he caught while placing the beed
    • no wonder the Gieco-anderhals feel so persecuted!

    • Technicalities. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Celeste R (1002377) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:53PM (#27990973)

      Cannibalism, although culturally repugnant to us, is fact of carnivorous history. Dogs eat their own, mice eat their own, fish eat their own, and sharks eat their own; is it so surprising that our ancestors ate their neighbors when food was scarce?

      Furthermore, consider the existence (or eradication as proof thereof) of cannibalistic societies: they didn't just randomly choose to eat what they do/did, they were taught to do so by someone.

      • Re:Technicalities. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nizo (81281) * on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:30PM (#27991213) Homepage Journal

        If humans were competing with nearby Neanderthals (chances are they were; we can't even keep from killing each other, and resources were almost certainly limited), them being unlike us (genetically unable to procreate with us, according to recent studies) would almost certainly make them animals from the viewpoint of our ancestors. Their looks wouldn't help much either.

        Also the fact that there were mass extinctions of all kinds of animals right after humans arrived in nearly every locale is no coincidence. We are efficient killers.

        • Re:Technicalities. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MikeFM (12491) on Monday May 18, 2009 @01:01AM (#27991645) Homepage Journal

          Look how recently the average white person thought that the black person wasn't the same species. It doesn't take a major distinction for people to think of others as inferior and okay to treat like an animal.

          Besides that if they were an enemy tribe and resources were limited then it makes sense to kill the enemy to protect your own. If food is limited and you are already killing something, which is eatable, then it makes sense to eat it.

        • Re:Technicalities. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by twostix (1277166) on Monday May 18, 2009 @01:43AM (#27991841)

          How do you know the Neanderthals weren't the aggressors? But Humans being more intelligent were able to beat them into submission?

          You frame your post like the big bad humans came in and exterminated the poor gentle defenseless Neanderthals because Humans are just so awful.

          The swan song of the self deprececating urban 'intellectual'.

          Nature's produced a hell of a lot worse and more blood thirsty killers than Humans.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by registrar (1220876)

            The swan song of the self deprececating urban 'intellectual'.

            Nature's produced a hell of a lot worse and more blood thirsty killers than Humans.

            All the GP said was "efficient." We are extremely efficient killers. We are geniuses when it comes to killing. Good for us. It's much better than starving to death, dying from infection, or letting our food animals die slowly. Not only that, we generally know when to restrain our killing.

            You dopey anti-intellectual.

            • Re:Technicalities. (Score:4, Interesting)

              by nizo (81281) * on Monday May 18, 2009 @06:45AM (#27993327) Homepage Journal

              Exactly; most likely they were the initial aggressors, defending their territory from us as we poured in. But when it comes to killing, seriously there is no other animal that does it as efficiently as we do. 30 large species of mammals went extinct when humans arrived in North America 10,000 years after the last Neanderthal disappeared. It was like a buffet where we ate our way down from the largest animals towards the smaller ones.

              It is intriguing that they appeared to be stronger than humans, their children probably matured faster than human children, and yet.... here we are.

              Not only that, we generally know when to restrain our killing.

              I'm not so sure about that part of what you said though.

    • by reporter (666905) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:28PM (#27991203) Homepage
      When people hear the word, "cannibalism", they tend to become squeamish. They tend to associate the act with a distant time and a distant place.

      Well, "cannibalism" still occurs in "modern" times. The most infamous incidents of cannibalism occurred in China from 1966 until 1976. According to a report [nytimes.com] by the "New York Times" in 1993, "At some high schools, students killed their principals in the school courtyard and then cooked and ate the bodies to celebrate a triumph over 'counterrevolutionaries,' the documents report. Government-run cafeterias are said to have displayed bodies dangling on meat hooks and to have served human flesh to employees.

      'There are many varieties of cannibalism,' declares one report, 'and among them are these: killing someone and making a late dinner of it, slicing off the meat and having a big party, dividing up the flesh so each person takes a large chunk home to boil, roasting the liver and eating it for its medicinal properties, and so on.'

      The documents suggest that at least 137 people, and probably hundreds more, were eaten in Guangxi Province in southern China in the late 1960's. In most cases, many people ate the flesh of one corpse, so the number of cannibals may have numbered in the thousands."

      According to a report [time.com] by "Time Magazine" in 2001, "The atrocities took many forms, according to documents. One report refers to 'eating people as an after-dinner snack . . .barbecuing people's livers . . .banqueting on human meat.' The same document matter-of-factly relates specific tales of depravity. 'On May 14, 1968,' it says, 'a group of 11, led by the Wei brothers, captured a man named Chen Guorong and killed him with a big knife before cutting out his liver. They shared the human meat with 20 participants.' The same month Wu Shufang, a teacher at the Wuxuan Middle School, was beaten to death; her liver was roasted and eaten. During 1968, 91 members of the Communist Party in Guangxi were expelled on charges that they were involved in cannibalism, but none was severely punished."

      To this day, some of the cannibals still hold political power in the Chinese government.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My girlfriend's father, a retired PLA colonel (and card-carrying Party member), told me about some things that he saw during the Cultural Revolution that didn't even make it into Jung Chang's book on Mao. "And there are other things that I can't discuss with you because they are still state secrets. Very terrible things. If only they could just cause me so easily to forget them altogether."

        I guess this is one of the things he was talking about.

      • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:29AM (#27992321) Homepage Journal

        Spent 2 1/2 years aboard ship with a Gunner's Mate from the Philippines. One of those BIG guys from back in the hills. His dad was a headhunter. When asked directly if he had ever eaten a human, he would answer, "I ate what my mother gave me! I didn't ask!" Some years later, I got a "stepmother" from the Philippines. Pretty much the same story.

        Yes, there ARE people alive today who have eaten human flesh.

        Repugnant? I dunno. If I were starving, and given the choice of human flesh or rat, I might opt for the long pig. I've NEVER heard anyone say that rat tastes good, but long pig is supposed to be just like - well - PIG! (I often wonder if that fact has anything to do with Islamic and Jewish prohibitions against pork - it tastes to much like human?)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by daveime (1253762)

        In most cases, many people ate the flesh of one corpse

        And thirty minutes later, they felt like another one.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:26PM (#27990759) Journal
    Or were neanderthals so cornered by humans that they resorted to cannibalism?

    Misleading title...

    RS

    • by Shakrai (717556)

      Or were neanderthals so cornered by humans that they resorted to cannibalism?

      If only they had developed gunpowder and resistance to smallpox... err wait, n/m thinking of something else ;)

    • by OECD (639690)

      Or were neanderthals so cornered by humans that they resorted to cannibalism?

      Misleading title...

      Not really. There's several explanations for why that jawbone ended up the way it did, but it wouldn't likely be N-on-N cannibalism, since it ended up in a Cro-Mag settlement.

      Judging from the absence of other bones, it could as easily have been scavenging, or opportunistic trophy collecting.

      OTOH, it could come back to bite us [escapepod.org].

  • Not cannabilisim (Score:4, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:26PM (#27990761) Journal
    Neanderthals are not the same species, eating them is on par with eating a great ape.
    • by billstewart (78916) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:44PM (#27990925) Journal

      Where do you draw the line? Neanderthals were pretty close to modern humans, and as far as we can tell, they were mostly "other tribes we're competing/fighting with", which were the typical target of cannibalism in most human societies that practiced it regularly (as opposed to starvation situations like the Donner Party or that airplane crash.) They may look a little funny, but they're basically the neighbors, not just wildlife.

      There are other reasons for it - some of the South Pacific islanders in Vanuatu have explained their motivation for cannibalism as "people are tasty", and that's pretty much why some Africans eat our near cousins like chimps and bonobos, which are about 98% like us. And there are occasional societies that practice it for magical reasons (it's currently a bad time to be albino in some parts of Africa, although the practitioners-of-traditional-medicine don't tend to actually eat the victims.) And we're certainly close enough cousins that eating undercooked apes and even monkeys is a really bad idea - seems to be where AIDS and a few other diseases have gotten to human populations from.

      That's not to say that chimps are peace-loving hippies themselves - one of the more vicious things I've seen on TV nature channels was a gang of half a dozen chimps hunting and killing a monkey.

      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:18PM (#27991129)

        Where do you draw the line?

        At the "is it another species" line.

        No = cannibalism.
        Yes = not cannibalism, though it may still be weird or gross.

        • by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Monday May 18, 2009 @12:37AM (#27991541) Homepage

          At the "is it another species" line.

          The problem is that modern biology shows that that line is arbitrary; common descent means that what appear to be separate "species" are just pairs of ring species [wikipedia.org] where the intermediate populations have died off. And in particular, whether Neanderthals could or did breed with us is a controversial topic; the "did not breed" is the leading theory right now, but it hasn't killed the "did breed" one just yet.

    • by hwyhobo (1420503)
      Not "cannabilisim"? Are you confusing cannibalism with smoking a joint? Hope you don't get munchies too often...
    • Re:Not cannabilisim (Score:4, Informative)

      by fermion (181285) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:07PM (#27991059) Homepage Journal
      h.neanderthals are currently considered in the same family as h. sapien sapien , homo, but are not currently considered a subspecies. Therefore the comparison with eating primates, as primates are related to us by family,hominidae, not genus, is not so great.

      The taboo against cannibalism, like the taboo against eating, say, pigs comes from the risk of cross infection. Any virus that infects a piece of meat of a prey can also infect a predator of the same species. To minimize this risk predators tend to eat outside of the species. OTOH, as we have seen, there can be across family, order, or even class, but the risk of infection does seem to decrease we move up the taxonomic classification. So we may have a specific taboo against eating within the family or genus, but that taboo is not cannibalism.

  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:31PM (#27990793) Homepage Journal

    Only in France would a Scientist subvert his own work due to culinary objections!

    -Peter

  • It's the new bread!

  • "The Inheritors" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cow Jones (615566) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:35PM (#27990841)

    William Golding wrote a fictional account of the Neanderthals' extinction at the hands of Homo sapiens:
    The Inheritors [wikipedia.org].

    Scary, but beautifully written.

    CJ

  • Neanderthal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by miracle69 (34841) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:36PM (#27990857)

    The Other Other Other White Meat.

  • by fyoder (857358) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:37PM (#27990871) Homepage Journal

    That robust frame of theirs was probably good for endurance, but those tasty suckers sure couldn't run fast!

    Poor neanderthals. Probably thought they were the top of the food chain too, until H.s.s. came along.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:46PM (#27990941) Journal

      That robust frame of theirs was probably good for endurance, but those tasty suckers sure couldn't run fast!

      I dunno, I saw an interesting documentary on them that suggested they probably had shit for endurance compared to us. They attributed that conclusion to their different gait and the fact that it would require more energy to move that heavy frame.

      Humans aren't very fast by the standards of the animal kingdom but we do have a fair amount of endurance compared to a lot of other animals. With enough water a reasonably fit human can march all day long. Many other animals can't do that because they overheat and tire out much quicker than we do. Dogs/wolves are adapt at doing it -- maybe that explains why they adapted so easily to living with humans?

      • by rrohbeck (944847) on Monday May 18, 2009 @12:50AM (#27991589)

        Humans actually have the best endurance of all land animals (better than horses - humans win long distance races against horses all the time.) I read that it's easy to catch a gazelle - just stalk it for about a day and it will lay down, exhausted and all you need is a stick or a rock to kill it. Some larger animals like moose take 2 to 3 days. There are still tribes that hunt this way and there's a theory that this was the primary hunting method of early hominids after they ventured out into the savanna - since their brain (hence energy needs) grew much earlier than there's evidence of weapons like spears.

        • by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Monday May 18, 2009 @11:18AM (#27997159)

          Yeah, humans are pretty much the Terminators of the animal kingdom.

          We can chase prey for days. We can hold grudges forever. Rip out our "claws"? We don't care, we'll pull out new ones and throw them at you. We can warp reality so that everything is trying to kill you. You have a nice adaptation for cold weather? We'll kill you and take it.
          Gazelle 1: Oh man, I've been running for a whole five minutes and that human's still chasing me!
          Gazelle 2: It gets worse. The wolves have started teaming up with them.
          Gazelle 1: Oh God...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)

      On the other hand, they were immensely strong. Anatomical studies of things like muscle attachments points indicate that they were as much a 3x the strength of a modern human. They are also quite brainy: they made tools and weapons and must have hunted cooperatively because they sometimes went after big game, like mammoth.

      So, slow and tasty they might be, but since they were armed with clubs and spears and were probably strong enough to rip your arms off with their bare hands, they weren't exactly easy p

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My office is evidence that neanderthals appear to have got the upper hand in some cases. Present company included.

  • Reparations (Score:5, Funny)

    by straponego (521991) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:42PM (#27990917)

    Clearly, the only decent thing to do is to resurrect the Neanderthal species as soon as we can reconstruct their DNA, then pass the Earth into their custody, along with a bashful apology etched as the introductory paragraph of our Rosetta stones.

    • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:14PM (#27991101) Homepage
      I was with you on the first part... Clearly, the only decent thing to do is to resurrect the Neanderthal species as soon as we can reconstruct their DNA, then find out what they taste like.
  • CAN I HAZ WISHBONE?

  • don't stray from mom and dad and go in the woods or the crazy lady will eat you

    its a kids story, with a useful function, and also probably an oral historical memory of when this was real

    "long pig" is the name in the south pacific for human meat. because, obviously, we taste like pig

    which, as a lover of bacon, makes me a little nervous: i'd probably like the taste

    i would wager that every single eyeball reading these words is the offspring, some great-great-great-ancestor, ate human flesh at some point

    you can feel morally repulsed by that diea, but the human stomach outweighs your moral compass when push comes to shove, and famine was not an uncommon thing in human history

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twostix (1277166)

      "you can feel morally repulsed by that diea, but the human stomach outweighs your moral compass when push comes to shove, and famine was not an uncommon thing in human history"

      In the immortal words of nineteenth century Australias most infamous convict escapee:

      "A full belly is prerequisite to all manner of good. Without that, no man knows what hunger will make him do. " - Alexander Pearce.

      Eight convicts escaped into the Tasmanian wilds together. As they wandered around for weeks and starved they started ki

    • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Monday May 18, 2009 @07:17AM (#27993445)

      and also probably an oral historical memory of when this was real

      I believe the "eating" in fairy tales isn't to be taken literally. The story of little red riding hood, for example, was told to warn girls for being raped: the verb "to eat", or in french "manger" could be interpreted both by eating or slang for fornication.

  • by vorenus (1319377) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @10:46PM (#27990937)
    An ancient fossilized variety of soylent was found perfectly preserved!
    Scientists reached the conclusion that:

    SOYLENT GREEN WAS NEANDERTHAL!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:01PM (#27991027)

    Could someone please tag this with 'nomnomnom'?

  • by panthroman (1415081) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:04PM (#27991035) Homepage

    Lots of comments say "not cannibalism!" And they have a point. But...

    The root of this semantic impasse is that there is no good definition of species, and I don't think there ever will be.

    The one usually taught in undergrad bio -- ability to make viable offspring -- has problems. To name a few:
    * Two same-gendered humans can't make a viable offspring.
    * Prepubescent children, post-menopausal women, and many other humans are sterile.
    * Sometimes two "species" could create viable offspring, but they don't. (E.g., different mating dances preclude them mating, but in a lab, sperm A and egg B make a viable offspring.)
    * Sometimes A can mate with B, and B with C, but A cannot mate with C directly. (A Chihuahua cannot mate with a Great Dane. It's physically impossible.)
    * The nontransitivity above (A, B, and C) is generally true of ALL creatures if you're allowed to go back in time. Go back far enough, and our ancestors could mate with chimp ancestors. A little farther and we share ancestors!
    * What about the poor asexual creatures? How do they have "species"?

    So whether or not this is 'cannibalism' relies on whether the fossil H. sapiens are conspecific with the fossil H. neanderwhatever. And that's a semantic question with no answer.

    But cannibalism or not, our ancestors apparently ate them some neanderthals!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blueg3 (192743)

      * Two same-gendered humans can't make a viable offspring.
      * Prepubescent children, post-menopausal women, and many other humans are sterile.
      * Sometimes two "species" could create viable offspring, but they don't. (E.g., different mating dances preclude them mating, but in a lab, sperm A and egg B make a viable offspring.)
      * Sometimes A can mate with B, and B with C, but A cannot mate with C directly. (A Chihuahua cannot mate with a Great Dane. It's physically impossible.)

      3 and 4 are essentially the same, since what is preventing offspring between A and C is a physical problem. Generally, none of these reasons are considered valid for determining species.

      * The nontransitivity above (A, B, and C) is generally true of ALL creatures if you're allowed to go back in time. Go back far enough, and our ancestors could mate with chimp ancestors. A little farther and we share ancestors!

      Yes, that's what we call "speciation". It's a single species differentiating into two species. I hope you can see why going back in time is not reasonable for determining species.

      * What about the poor asexual creatures? How do they have "species"?

      Obviously, it's a more complicated problem.

      Ability to produce viable offspring is actually only one measure of whether two species are separate, bu

  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:04PM (#27991039) Homepage
    The truth is out... the existence of early Wall Street traders now confirmed.
  • why so surprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kachakaach (1336273) * on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:05PM (#27991043)

    christians practice ritualistic cannibalism every sunday, body of christ, blood of christ, etc.

  • All these replies of people saying 'but but No! Our ancestors weren't cannibals!' reminds me of a Science/Nat Geo/Discovery Channel show I saw recently about those Cannibal Druids and all the evidence of that happening. Lots and lots of dolts went on camera to mouth a ton of excuses and 'buts' rather than admit that the Druids as Mother Earth loving, New Age darlings were bloodthirsty, life hating, human sacrificing cannibals. I particularly liked when one of the 'professors' said that their cannibalism and human sacrifice was perfectly understandable when you consider that the Roman Army was marching on them and you know how much pressure people are under when those scary Romans are marching. Human sacrifice, cannibalism, savagery, pillaging, raping, - that's who we are folks. It's our heritage, just acknowledge our darker past (and present) and let's try to do better.
    • by Repton (60818) on Monday May 18, 2009 @01:40AM (#27991825) Homepage

      I read an essay by Martin Gardner in one of his books [amazon.com] on cannibalism, asking whether it really happened. The essay was really a discussion of a book, which made the claims:

      1. No anthropologist / explorer had ever witnessed cannabilism.
      2. No tribe had ever admitted to it.

      The book claimed that all evidence of customary [1] cannibalism effectively boiled down to a tribe / people / whatever saying: "Those guys who live over there, they are cannibals!" So anthropology students have been taught for ages that various primitive tribes engaged in cannibalism, but there is seemingly no proof of this statement. This was controversial and a few years ago (10, perhaps?) so I'm not sure what the current state of the art is.

      [1] There are obvious one-off examples, like recently those rugby players down in South America, and in (pre)history perhaps eating mighty chiefs/warriors to try to absorb some of their strength or mana. This is, rather, looking at the idea of tribes that eat people on a regular basis.

    • Suprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

      Ask an african about slavery, do they EVER mention that the majority of slaves shipped to europe and america were SOLD by black slavers?

      Ask a german wether he/she "es gewust habe". "Nein, ich habe es nicht". 12+ million people rounded up and slaughtered by volunteers and special units that nobody had ever heard about.

      Ask a ROMAN catholic who killed Jesus Christ, bet you none of them make a direct link between ROMANS and ROMAN catholics.

      Ask an american to explain the difference between conquering the west

    • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Monday May 18, 2009 @01:59AM (#27991931) Journal
      "Lots and lots of dolts went on camera to mouth a ton of excuses and 'buts' rather than admit that the Druids as Mother Earth loving, New Age darlings were bloodthirsty, life hating, human sacrificing cannibals."

      Very little is known about the Druids since they had no written language, most of what is known was written by the Romans who were not above using propoganda on their enemies. This is the main reason why historians doubt the written (by the winner) accounts. The written accounts (and the arguments) have been around for centuries and I suspect you just pulled the "Mother Earth loving, New Age darlings" bit out of your arse because it suits your own worldview rather than anything to do with the content of the documentary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:34PM (#27991241)

    I'm sick of this kind of story, and I'm not sure if the problem is in the press, or with the anthropologists, but its a big leap from the evidence to concluding that its cannibalism. The evidence is interesting and consists of cutmarks on a neanderthal jawbone, cutmarks consistent with defleshing of the jawbone using stone tools. Now why would someone want to do that? To eat lips and cheeks? Really? Sure its possible, but there are other explanations that are just as likely. What would show cannibalism conclusively would be neanderthal dna in homo sapiens sapiens coprolites. I haven't heard of anyone doing any such testing, though someone recently found australopithecine hair in hyena dung from Sterkfontein cave in South Africa, indicating they were eating early hominids at least occassionally.

    Humans have a long history of curating bones (especially skulls and jawbones) from others. Some of these are manually defleshed, while others are left to deflesh by natural means. These can be bones of ancestors, relatives, or people killed in warfare. So, cut marks, for me, are much more likely to indicate defleshing for curation.

  • Meh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brett Buck (811747) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @11:57PM (#27991349)

    I don't see the big deal here. People were always living on the edge of starvation. Why would anything be off the menu? The existence of kuru http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuru_(disease) [wikipedia.org] certainly suggests that it was not at all unusual. Particularly when it was likely a case of simply seeing the neatherthals as another animal.

          Brett

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday May 18, 2009 @12:11AM (#27991419) Homepage

    This kind of thing is a minefield, and very hard to prove. To see what I mean, do a google search on "cannibalism anasazi." People get emotional about certain scientific issues, and often the reason they're so emotional is that there's painful history involved, and/or a history of the misuse of science. For instance, it's theoretically a reasonable scientific topic to look for correlations between race and intelligence -- but if you try study it, you'll unleash such a shitstorm that you'll wish you hadn't. Part of this is because the topic isn't PC, but part is also because of history (eugenics, Nazism, Cyril Burt).

    Cannibalism has historically been one of these scientific issues that are just hard to study because emotions run too high. For instance, you have the history of Europeans portraying Africans as savage cannibals (which made it easier for Americans to justify slavery, and for the Belgians to justify cutting people's arms off in Congo).

    Some archaeologists and anthropologists have gone so far as to claim that cannibalism simply doesn't exist, and never has. Others have found physical evidence that they interpret as evidence of widespread cannibalism in certain societies. Still others say that it exists, but only in a ritualized form.

    I'm not convinced that the chances are very good of coming to a definite conclusion about cannibalism that might have happened hundreds of thousands of years ago, when we can't even study the more recent cases.

  • by jandersen (462034) on Monday May 18, 2009 @01:09AM (#27991695)

    "Human" is a term applicable to all members of the genus "Homo", just like "Chimpanzee" is the word for all members of "Pan" - the biological genus, that is, not the club (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Club_Copenhagen). As a note of interest, some biologists even argue that chimpanzees are biologically so close to us that they should be included in the same genus.

    I suspect the idea that humans are somehow special and "more" than animals stems from the kind of religion we have traditionally practised here in the West, which is in many ways still a "famer- and shepherd religion". To most hunter/gatherers this distinction is unknown - the animals you hunt are seen as persons you have to respect; when we became farmers, animals became mere items that the Creator had made for our convenience.

    And of, it isn't hard to see this traditional prejudice reflected in the constantly repeated "Humans vs Neanderthal" nonsense - something that continues despite the ever growing body of evidence that shows the Neanderthal Human to be a sophisticated creature with culture on par with our own at the time - there is evidence that they took care of their elderly and sick, such as the remains of a person who was clearly disabled, yet lived to adulthood, as well as eg. the "Divje Babe" flute (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal_flute) which may be evidence that they practised music. They were clearly very clever hunters, possibly more so than Homo sapiens - a recent study suggests they hunted large prey actively rather than simply scavenging.

  • Maybe not (Score:3, Funny)

    by eclectro (227083) on Monday May 18, 2009 @02:40AM (#27992103)

    How do we know that this wasn't just a bad case of the zombies??

  • by atarione (601740) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:15AM (#27992257)

    but we know they were DELICIOUS apparently.

  • Grue (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:21AM (#27992567) Homepage
    It is pitch black, you are likely to be eaten by a human.

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