Why is human flesh eaten and how does it taste? Cannibalism is more widespread than it seems - National Geographic

Why is human flesh eaten and how does it taste? Cannibalism is more widespread than it seems - National Geographic

Author: kar / PHOTO: Isifa

18. 04. 2018

It started with murder. Today, the discovery of the remains of the Peking Man, who lived on the Dragon Bone Hill south of Beijing about half a million years ago, is considered to be the oldest evidence of human existence. We don't know much about him, but one of the proven facts is that human flesh appeared on the menu. Apparently, cannibalism was very common with him - since this area is relatively poor in animals, roast human meat was one of the main sources of animal protein for him.

Cannibalism has also been proven at dozens of other archaeological sites, for example in Spain's Gran Dolina or Croatia's Krapina. And that's not to mention the findings related to the Neanderthals, for whom it is still not entirely clear whether they were the direct ancestors of humans or just a blind evolutionary branch.

A well-known example of cannibalism happened in 1972. At that time, a plane carrying the Uruguayan national rugby team crashed in the Andes. The movie Survive was made about this case. Watch the trailer:

Source: Youtube

Who did the peaceful Indians eat?

Thanks to the Mayans and recent movies, North American Indians are fixed as peaceful bison hunters. But many tribes followed completely different rules. In 1994, archaeologists discovered the settlement of the Anabazi tribe near the Grand Canyon. In it were found the remains of a number of human bodies professionally cut into pieces and partially bitten off. Then, when scientists analyzed the coprolite (fossilized human excrement), they found that it contained the remains of proteins from a single animal species - humans. These natives seem to have been specialized cannibals, eating nothing but human flesh. They are the only culture in history that specialized in this direction…

How to recognize a cannibal? Archaeologists do not find evidence of the consumption of human flesh in the stomachs of prehistoric people, but on the bones of victims of cannibalism. Most often, traces of flint knives, which were left after separating the meat from the bone, are looked for. Another piece of evidence is the types of bones found in the piles. For groups suspected of cannibalism, it is mostly the long bones of the arms and legs - that is, the place where there is a lot of meat. The definitive proof is the crushed bones, which prove that the protein-rich turkey was sucked out of them.

The worst cannibals in history: The face eater from Mysore

Not a cannibal like a cannibal

There are a number of traditional cannibal societies. Each has its own rules and rituals, but anthropologists divide them according to several basic types. The basic division is whether a relative or a stranger is eating.

Endocannibalism means eating dead friends or relatives as a sign of respect. This tradition is spread across continents. For example, among the South American Indians of the Cocomas tribe, the bones of dead relatives are used in addition to the meat; these are ground into a powder from which tasty beer is made. According to the Indians, it is much better and more dignified for the dead to end up in the bellies of friends than to rot in the ground.

Meat of their own species is eaten not only by humans, but also by many species of animals. For example, such a hippopotamus...

The Australian aborigines from the Queensland region used to eat members of their own tribe. However, this privilege was allowed only to those of the highest rank in the tribe. The fat of the deceased thus eaten is then divided among the relatives.

Sometimes this kind of cannibalism is mixed with other traditions. For Australian tribes who are afraid of evil spells, cannibalism also has a defensive function against curses. When a tribe member dies of something suspicious, everyone else eats the rest of the community. If the person who cast the curse ate the meat, they would die. Aborigines even ate newborn babies, their meat was given to their older siblings.

Exocannibalism is the familiar cannibalism we encounter in adventure literature and movies. Although we associate it mainly with Africa and Oceania, paradoxically one of the oldest documents of its existence comes from Europe. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about the Celtic custom of eating the brains of enemies. Druids were supposed to do it, so that the power of the adversaries would pass into them.

In the Caribbean, human flesh was a common item on the menu. It was eaten in all kinds of forms - raw, roasted, smoked and salted.

Feel like a barbecue? The popular American roasting of meat called barbecue is slowly gaining ground in our country as well. You might be tempted to learn that it was originally a Caribbean "barbacoa" ritual where a POW was roasted over a raw wood fire.

Even such a great civilization as the Aztecs ate human flesh. Tens of thousands of captives were executed during their ceremonies, their hearts were indeed given to the gods, but the whole nation was divided over the meat. The officials got the thighs, the priests the entrails, and the common people took the rest. During the festivities, the Aztecs ate a mixture of finely chopped human flesh and cornmeal.

Cannibals of the 20th century

Although we have mainly presented historical examples so far, institutionalized cannibalism did not die even in the 20th century. For example, during the reign of the Central African dictator Bokassy in the 1980s, the meat of the children of the dictator's enemies appeared on his table. After his overthrow, the meat of dozens of children was found in his freezer... At the same time, another well-known dictator, Ugandan Idi Amin, apparently consumed human flesh. His freezer was also full of human bodies, from which the tastiest meat had been chopped.

There is also evidence that during II. During World War II, Japanese soldiers ate the meat of Americans. It was not because of hunger (this often happened on the Eastern Front), but because their commanders ordered it as revenge against the enemy.

Does the cannibal have remorse? Only when they are not sitting on a coconut

From the perspective of a European living in the 21st century, these practices sound unacceptable. It is certain that everyone who tasted human flesh had some moral problems with it. However, if cannibalism spread in society, rules were created to justify its existence. Daniel Diehl gives an example from Africa in the book History of Cannibalism. A native of the Purari tribe explains when it is permissible to eat human flesh: “It is not our custom to eat a person whom we have not killed ourselves. But there is one exception. When, after killing a person, you went and sat on a coconut tree and told your daughter to boil that person's heart, then you could drink the water in which the heart was boiled. You were also allowed to eat a piece of the heart, but still, the whole time, you had to sit on those coconuts.”