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Archaeological Evidence for Cannibalism in Prehistoric Western Europe: from Homo antecessor to the Bronze Age

Imported: 04 Dec '16 | Published: 03 Nov '16

Palmira Saladié, Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo

Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

Abstract: Abstract Archaeological studies of human cannibalism and its causes have never lacked controversy. The reasons for this are both the difficulties in identifying cannibalism and the inherent complexity, by the many nuances that can have the behaviour of eating other humans. After Turner’s detailed studies in the Southwestern USA, reports were published in the 1990s of cannibalism during European prehistory. Archaeological sites identified with cannibalism have been found that date from the early Pleistocene to the Iron Age. In this study, we review data from Western Europe’s prehistoric sites, which allow us to discuss the various labels that accompany interpretations of cannibalism. The most common interpretation is not ritual but is rather gastronomic, nutritional or dietary. However, there is no agreement on this interpretation. Following the data review, we propose dividing cannibalism into the following broad, objective and useful categories: exocannibalism, endocannibalism and survival cannibalism, although it is not always easy to choose one option. We also review the taphonomic characteristics of these assemblages, which enable us to establish the most common taphonomic markers of prehistoric cannibalism. These features include abundant anthropogenic modifications (on more than of 20 % of human remains), the intensive processing of bodies, greater abundance of cut marks related to defleshing and filleting that dismembering and... Read More

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