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Questions and answers for Jamestown cannibalism case

Few archaeological finds have been as sensational as the first physical evidence of cannibalism unearthed at Historic Jamestowne in 2012 and announced in a riveting press conference at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History on May 1.

But despite a chain of evidence that includes a telltale context of butchered horse and dog bones -- plus a detailed analysis by one of the leading forensic anthrolopologists in the world -- skeptics began asking questions almost as soon as the announcement was over.

That's why Jamestown Rediscovery director William Kelso, Colonial Williamsburg historian James Horn and Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley will appear at the Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg at 7 p.m. tonight to present the arguments behind their conclusion that the skull of a 14-year-old female colonist was butchered for consumption in a horrific case of survival cannibalism.

Among the key points they're expected to make is the weight of the context in which the skull was found, including scores of butchered horse and dog bones that indicate a group of colonists carrying out desperate choices in order to survive.

Owsley, who has extensive experience examining both human skeletal remains that have been butchered for consumption and the remains of Plains Indians victims who have been ritually scalped and disfigured, also is expected to describe in detail the multiple chopping and cutting wounds that led him to conclude the skull was butchered.

"This person did not know how to butcher an animal. What we see is hesitancy and lack of experience," he said earlier this month.

""But they were clearly interested in the cheek meat, the muscles of the tongue and throat and the brain."

The program will be held at 7 p.m. at the Kimball Theatre on Merchants Square, Williamsburg. Tickets are $10. For more information call 1-800-HISTORY or visit www.historicjamestowne.org.

-- Mark St. John Erickson

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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