Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo


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For a topic that could have been incredibly interesting, she only did a mediocre job. Carole A.

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Presenting the history of cannibalism in concert with human evolution, this account takes readers on an astonishing trip around the world and throughout history, painting the incredible, multifaceted realities of cannibalism. Focusing on how cannibalism began with the human species and how it has become an unspeakable taboo today, this study answers questions such as Where, when, and how did shame and secrecy become connected with cannibalism?

Why did some cannibals consume their enemies while others consumed their dead relatives? It is this body of recent and earlier scholarly literature that is broadly and carefully synthesized by the author. I have a few archaeology colleagues who can barely bring themselves to use the C word.

Humans taste like pork, other cannibal info at Everett library

Instead they refer to my findings, excavated at numerous prehistoric southwestern U. Another Southwest archaeologist has reportedly proclaimed that use of the C word should cease altogether. The modern form of the cannibalism taboo is linked to political correctness and the neutering of the relevant language. I predict that all the protestations surrounding the study and discussion of cannibalism will be swept away after the general public and interested scholars read Carolee A. Why do I feel this way? Well, for starters, the author has a deceptively well-crafted and witty writing style that carries the reader along as effortlessly as with the best whodunit.

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In fact, DWAC is a fascinating scientific whodunit: who ate whom and why? Travis-Henikoff sees cannibalism as an ancient and natural adaptive strategy that kept early humans alive until seasonally scarce food resources improved. Equally famous paleoanthropologist Tim White made a compelling case for nutritional cannibalism in his study of butchered and cooked prehistoric human remains excavated near Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. Secondly, as mentioned, Travis-Henikoff has done her homework.

I found myself repeatedly taking notes on references that I had missed in my 40 years of researching the subject of cannibalism.

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I missed most of the literature on cannibalism detailed in biblical and other religious writings. This oversight prevented me from appreciating how important human sacrifice and cannibalism were in the early ceremonies and practices of the Judeo-Christian religions. This information has led me to think that the Spanish proclamation against Aztec cannibalism was not just a way to dehumanize the Mexicans so that they could be colonially exploited, as some historical reconstructionists would have us believe, rather there were ancient cannibalized skeletons in the Christian closet.

Needless to say, DWAC is a taboo-buster, and its comprehensiveness and clarity of explanation are equal to the best popular anthropological writing of today— Brian Fagan, Roger Lewin, Jared Diamond, and others. It contains much food for thought, and it is meaty enough to satisfy even the hungriest of graduate students.

Various invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and mammals are naturally or situationally cannibalistic. As for the human story, Travis-Henikoff guides us around the world in an in-depth tour of recent, prehistoric, and ancient incidents of cannibalism practiced by diverse cultures in Oceania, Australia, East Asia, Africa, the Americas, and yes, even in pre-Christian and Christian Europe. No major human group escapes her eye for documentary detail, history, and types of cannibalism practiced.

Cooking methods, organ preferences, and other culinary facts could only be professionally detailed by someone well acquainted with the art of high cuisine. Her story is based on news reports, ethnographic accounts, documentary reconstructions, ancient writings, and fossil and sub-fossil human bone processing cut marks, perimortem breakage, burning, cooking, etc.

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Total consumption and skeletal destruction leave not a gram of evidence in some groups, hinting that prehistoric cannibalism in those areas will not be easy to come by. Europeans were rather good at cannibalism including a widespread medical variant , along with the torture, rape, and burning of witches, and werewolf hunts.

Cannibalism was specifically outlawed by royal Spanish decree following the initiation of the Spanish church and state inquisition in With the Inquisition came the legal enforcement of the cannibalism taboo. But, as Travis-Henikoff relates in much detail, the taboo has been violated throughout twentieth-century Eurasia—in politically driven episodes of starvation in the Soviet Union i. Her details about cannibalism during World War II in the Pacific paint an even grimmer picture of modern human cannibalism. Stories about isolated, starving Eskimo groups eating their dying or dead elders are trivial by comparison.

The author notes that today we and the media generally associate cannibalism with sociopathic and psychopathic individuals, invariably male loners.

National Geographic - Eating with Cannibals Part 1

She notes that this sort of mentally disturbed cannibalism is very rare, and most contemporary and recent cases of cannibalism involve starvation or a culturally determined pattern of consumptive acts that often were associated with feelings of loss and grief for the consumed person. Travis-Henikoff is very well versed in anthropology, especially paleoanthropology, and is personally acquainted with many of the scholars who practice this science of very ancient human life and evolution.

Hence, she is able to paint a highly credible picture of human cannibalism that goes back hundreds of thousands of years. This information from bones, when coupled with genetic data on prion disease, leads to a reasonable hypothesis that proposes our ancestors were all cannibals. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I predict that the reader will enjoy this book as much as I did. Who other than a gastronomic enthusiast could write such an entertaining and enlightening book on cannibalism?

Few people believe their ancestors practiced cannibalism, and some scholars deny its existence altogether, but the truth is. Recent finds of species-specific tooth marks on dinosaur bones prove occurrences of cannibalism dating back to the Mesozoic era.


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Today, many people see themselves as standing outside the realm of the animal kingdom, but as living creatures with functional brains, we are not only animals, but the dominating force that holds sway over the magnificent puzzle of global biota that exists on planet Earth. From our very beginnings, human cannibalism has been practiced for numerous reasons, many of which have been labeled. For example, the Aztecs practicing cannibalism to keep the sun from dying versus Christian Communion. Nevertheless, human flesh is human flesh, and the consuming of it by another human constitutes an act of cannibalism.

The most reliable sources state that human flesh resembles beef, though it is lighter in color and texture, and, according to some, the most delicious of meats. One other form of cannibalism should be noted as it graces the pages of this book. As individuals, we are a summation of our unique genetics, all we have experienced, and what we have been taught to believe. If the people within the society to which you were born practice cannibalism, burn people at stakes, make war, promote terrorism, or scarify their bodies, chances are you will do the same. This volume investigates not only the subject of cannibalism, but when and why people ate those of their own kind and continue to do so to this very day.

The why of cannibalism forces the examination of many surrounding subjects, from the many foods we eat, to the caves of our ancient past, to what makes us human. How do belief systems affect our lives? Are we different today from our ancestors of yesteryear? Do the memes of the societies we live in dictate our beliefs and our actions? Where do religions fit in? Are religions more powerful than kings, queens and governments? Do we function instinctually, or are we mere tools of our societies?

How did we get to where and how we are today? How different are we, one society to another?

Santa Monica Press | Dinner with a Cannibal : The Complete History of Mankind’s Oldest Taboo

And how do we differ from our most ancient ancestors? Dinner with a Cannibal presents the history of cannibalism in concert with human development, making note of religions and societies that either condoned or outlawed the practice.

The interpretation of human cannibalism used in this volume is the ingestion of any part of the human form, including fluids or matter emanating from the body. Information for this book was gathered over a seven-year period from authoritative primary sources. Research materials and investigations used for accepting the fact that human cannibalism was and is real and not uncommon, include scientific reports; firsthand accounts; anthropological and archaeological evidence; historical, anthropological and archaeological writings; recent news reports; and the analyzing of belief systems.


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Advice, editing, readings and contributions from leading professors, paleoanthropologists, archaeologists and scientists from multiple fields, plus physician specialists, directed and tightened the work. I have used the names of various tribes and peoples only when the literature has been highly publicized or those listed are deceased.

Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo
Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo
Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo
Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo
Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo
Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo
Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankinds Oldest Taboo

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