Evidence of Survival Cannibalism Discovered at Jamestown
The first scientifically-proven occurrence of survival cannibalism in Colonial America has been confirmed. Based on anthropological evidence, researchers believe "Jane", of European ancestry and about 14 years old, arrived in Jamestown in 1609, just months before the worst of the "starving time." Her partial skeleton was recovered by Dr. Kelso and his team as part of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project. The markings on her bone fragments and forensic research have confirmed she was cannibalized. For more information about the find and the history of Jamestown, as well as a short, easy-to-understand video, visit the Jane site at Historic Jamestowne. More news articles about the find can be found in the Teaching Strategy.
In this lesson, students review the circumstances of the founding of Jamestown and the Starving Time. Then, in groups, students read a primary source quote that describes actions taken by the colonists to stay alive during the Starving Time. Finally, students explore the recent discovery of cannibalism during the Starving Time, the science behind the discovery, and what the discovery means for our understanding of early Jamestown.
Quotation of the Month
"Our men were destroyed with cruel diseases, as swellings, fluxes, burning fevers, and by wars, and some departed suddenly, but for the most part they died of mere famine. There were never Englishmen left in a foreign country in such misery as we were in this new-discovered Virginia..."
— George Percy, "Observations Gathered Out of a Discourse of the Plantation of the southern Colony of Virginia by the English, 1606," as quoted in Edward Wright Haile, ed., Jamestown Narratives: Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony, the First Decade, 16071617 Champlain, Va.: Round House, 1998), p. 98.
Colonial Williamsburg for Teachers
Colonial Williamsburg Teaching Resources for Your Classroom
Colonial Williamsburg offers a variety of quality American history instructional materials, including:
DISCOVERING THE PAST THROUGH ARCHAEOLOGY
A Classroom Simulation
Grades 4-8. $99.00.
This 2007 Electronic Field Trip explores previous archaeological discoveries at Jamestown.
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