Were Prehistoric Britons Cannibals?

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British scientists think that they may have uncovered an explanation behind unusual marks on a 9000-year-old human bone recently excavated in Devon... but that the explanation may involve their ancestors having been prehistoric cannibals.

The Guardian newspaper reports on research carried out by Oxford University scientists on a fragment of bone discovered near Torquay in Devon that contained "delicate cut marks" that, it's been concluded, were made by a stone tool following death. According to the Guardian, scientists decided that the marks on the bone - thought to be part of the forearm of a human adult -

suggest that either the flesh was stripped or the body chopped into pieces – perhaps for ritual reasons or to make it more convenient to handle. The arm appears to have been fractured around the time of death.


Some would think it'd be a bit of a leap from there to cannibalism, but apparently past experience suggests otherwise:

Evidence suggesting cannibalism has been found at a number of prehistoric British sites, including Cheddar Gorge, and bones apparently split to extract the marrow found at Eton in Berkshire.

Being British, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this new revelation. On the one hand, it explains my love of meat and inability to successfully use tableware in polite social situations. But on the other, the idea of my ancestors chowing down on each other makes me slightly uncomfortable, especially if there were ritualistic cleavings in order to get to that point. Can we invent a time machine to go back and check this out already?

Cave bone hints at prehistoric Devon cannibals [Guardian.co.uk]