Anthropology: Cannibalism Research Report – Research Paper – Dria Alex
Anthropology: Cannibalism Research Report
Anthropology: Cannibalism Research ReportCannibalism Research Report: Extra Credit Paper Cannibalism has been a topic of interest to humans throughout history. There have been numerous reports and evidences presented that point to cannibalism occurring since the dawn of man. It simply seems as if, you are put if a very dire situation, people would turn to other people as a source of sustenance. Fortunately, not many people have had to take such great lengths as this to survive; some people would say they would rather die than eat the flesh of a fellow human being. This shows a great taboo in cannibalism. Up until the past couple hundred years, cannibalism was viewed as a relatively normal happening. People commonly used to chow down on their fellow man for both survival and ritualistic purposes. Only recently has cannibalism taken on a taboo status and only become synonymous with primitive tribes, psychotic killers, and as last a ditch effort to survive very severe situations. In a recent article report I found anthropologist researchers excavated a cave with Mesolithic-era bones, dating back 10,000 years.The purpose of cannibalism can be divided into two basic subtopics. The first type of cannibalism is survival cannibalism in which the victim is consumed for nutritional values. This is the most easily identifiable case and is what really humanizes cannibalism. This is the instance of cannibalism in which common people are thrown into bad situations and have a very strong will to live. It is interesting to see sane people lose their mind and do the unthinkable to survive. No one really knows what they would do in the situation, and that is what makes the human mind so unpredictable. Some people say that if placed in a situation where cannibalism is the only viable option for survival, they would not eat anyone, but there is really no real way to tell. The nicest people can turn ruthless when their life is on the line. Some examples of survival cannibalism are the Donner Party, the Uruguayan Rugby team and the recently discovered Jamestown case. The second kind of cannibalism is ritualistic cannibalism. This is the case in which people, often in primitive tribes or groups, consume others for fulfillment of a rite. Most ritualistic cannibals consume other for funerary purposes. When their loved one dies, the members of the family consume parts of their loved one. The most often consumed part of the body is the brain; they consume this organ to “gain the knowledge and wisdom” of their loved one. The tribes that currently practice ritualistic cannibalism are almost entirely located in third world countries. In times of war, warriors would also cut off certain parts of their victim’s body and eat it to gain their power. This could also be done as an intimidation tactic or sign of disrespect to the fallen war victim. The final subcategory of cannibalism can be categorized as miscellaneous. These cases are not as near as common or well known as the others. Miscellaneous cannibalism can pretty much be chalked up as done by people with mental problems, or those with a curiosity to taste human flesh. The most famous case of cannibalism by a person with mental problems is Jeffery Dahmer, a serial killer in the 1980s who terrorized young men by killing them and often consuming them. There have also been several cases in which people have given consent to others to taste their flesh. In the United States, if consent is given and murder is not performed on the person, cannibalism IS legal. There was recent TV show in which two consenting people dined on each other’s flesh on live television. No matter what the reason for cannibalism, it is certainly frowned upon today, although it would make sense that everyone from serial killers to normal, everyday people would be curious as to what human flesh tastes like.Cannibalism dates back to the beginning of humans. Homo Antecessor, a very early ancestor of humans was recently reported to have killed and eaten for nutritional value, or for some act of defense against other creatures through intimidation. Likewise, cannibalism has also been observed in chimpanzees. Chimpanzees have been observed to cannibalize the young of other chimpanzees in order stake their claim to a territory or area. Young are often targeted in these types of intimidation scenarios. Since then, cannibalism has been on the forefront of a lot of other conflicts and has been documented in many, many other societies dating all the way up to today. Cannibalism can leave some telltale signs on the bones of the victims. Often times cannibals are very careless with their acts, as they often can leave pretty clear evidence that their victim was cannibalized. Survival and tribal cannibalism would need not care about leaving evidence of cannibalism, but people who are mentally disturbed who kill people to cannibalize them are getting more intelligent with their search for victims. Recent cannibal/killer Armin Meiwes used the internet to find his victim. Some really weird things happened and then Armin killed his victim and stored him in a freezer. By the time he was caught, Meiwes had eaten almost 20kg of his victim. For survival and tribal cannibalism, however, the signs are a little easier to spot that point to cannibalism. Cutting marks are marks produced by the cutting of a bone surface. Cut marks are usually characterized by repetitive slicing of the bone, which should be apparent from the appearance of the bone. Cut marks are often longer in length than chopping marks. Burning of bone can be difficult to spot. At low temperatures, the damage done to the bone by burning cannot really be easily identified. Changes in surface color and texture can lead to the conclusion of burning. The temperature at which the bone was burned can affect the color and texture of the bone. Burning can also lead to cracking on the surface of the bone. Pot Polish is usually something that is seen in most cases of cannibalism, it consists of raised abrasions and polished appearance to the ends of long bones. This feature happens when the bone rubs against the sides of a pot and gives the bone a shiny appearance. The rubbing of the bone against a pot provides solid evidence that the bone belongs to someone who was cooked and then possibly consumed. The look of the bone is almost similar to Ivory in a way. Lastly, missing vertebrae is an element of cannibalism that can’t be overlooked. Almost half of all cannibalism cases consist of a victim that had missing vertebrae. In some cases, the vertebrae are reported to have been smashed and boiled for grease extraction. Victims of tribal cannibalism are often located to a secondary burial site prior to final burial. This site often contains many other victims of cannibalism. In this site, the victims are usually disarticulated and dismembered; the decomposing process usually begins here. The victims are also subject to weathering and other environmental elements that could damage the bones in these secondary burial sites. In terms of perimortem damage to the bones, sharp weapons are often targeted to the thorax of the body, leaving the ribs to be the most commonly damaged in those situations. Blunt force perimortem trauma is often directed at the skull and leaves a circular and depressed area usually lacking clear edges; the damage could also be subject to beveling and small cracks that radiate outward from the focal point of the blow. Postmortem mutilation can often be found in tribal and domestic cannibalism. This often includes mutilation to the face, genitals, teeth, scalp or appendages. Trophy taking is also a part of battle that includes cannibalism. Scalping of course is the most common trophy taken, but mandibles, vertebrae, heads themselves and teeth, hands, feet and limbs are also often reported as being trophies taken during wartime violence. Artifacts can also be created from trophies by doing special things to them like painting, polishing, carving, or changing the overall appearance of the bone or trophy.Cannibalism is not just a matter of human morality, it is a matter of biological issues as well. Cannibalism is not a perfect practice that can simply satisfy one’s creepy urges, or help gain “wisdom” or sustenance. It comes with baggage that can haunt one’s life or body forever. Biologically speaking, there is a disease that is associated with cannibalism called Kuru. Kuru comes from a similar category of diseases as Mad Cow Disease. The disease comes about through defective protein molecules that come together in the brain in clumps around the cerebellum. It was observed mostly in the 1950s and 60s; it was noticed among the Fore people of New Guinea, it is a tribe that regularly practiced ritualistic cannibalism. The people would consume the brains of the dead there, and contract the disease. The incubation period of the disease can be up to a few years, but when the symptoms finally began coming on, they hit very hard. Symptoms include tremors, slurred speech and seriously impaired motor skills. The patient would then die in a coma like state around 6-12 months after first appearance of symptoms. Kuru is the Fore people’s word for “shiver”. The disease took a major toll on the tribe and almost wiped it out. Fortunately, the government stepped in and began to discourage the people from partaking in cannibalism. After the government began to discourage the consumption of others, the disease declined significantly. Currently, the disease is classified as rare and is almost completely eradicated. There is no cure for Kuru, and likely never will be due to its continuing shrinkage in infection numbers. Likewise, cannibalism also takes a mental toll on those who were forced to partake in it in survival situations. “I think the greatest sadness I felt in my life was when I had to eat a dead body” this statement comes from Roberto Canessa, someone who was involved on the plane crash of the Uruguayan rugby team incident. He had to cannibalize his fellow man in order to survive the desperate situation. “I would ask myself: Is it worth doing this? And it was because it was in order to live and preserve life, which is exactly what I would have liked for myself if it had been my body that lay on the floor,” he also said this, expressing his very strong regret with the situation and sharing his ideas if he was in the position of the deceased. It is a good thing to see someone be so humane about such an inhumane act. After the 16 remaining traumatized survivors were rescued, the bodies of the dead victims were recovered and given a proper, respectful burial. Years after the incident, the survivors have all noted that they have a very different lease on life. They are all very optimistic and enjoy every aspect of their lives. Most of the survivors are now in their late 50s and 60s. The mental toll of cannibalism can really hit someone hard. Once again, cannibalism cannot really be accurately described or understood without actually experiencing it, but it is understandable that consuming a fellow human being can fill someone with regret or disgust. Along with the physical/biological repercussions of the act, it is easy to see why cannibalism is so widely discouraged in the modern age.In terms of “modern” cannibalism, it is rarely practiced. There are claims left and right about tribes practicing cannibalism. It is still unclear about whether the Fore people or the famous Korowai people still practice cannibalism. Some anthropologists claim that the Korowai people still practice the act, some do not. Some officials simply insist that the Indonesian government persuades the tribes to appear as if they do in order to attract more tourists. Most commonly cannibalized victims of the Korowai tribe or Papua New Guinea are khakhuas or witch doctors who are often accused. After accuse, the person goes through a trial of sorts and is convicted or set free. If convicted the person is tortured, killed, and then eaten. Needless to say, living in a cannibalistic tribe would be interesting, but not very fun. Other “modern” cases of cannibalism are often simply isolated incidents. They consist of cases of people going crazy and simply devouring their fellow species out of hate, curiosity, or for fun. This is where we get into people cannibalizing other simply because they can. This is the line in which cannibalism goes from interesting and cultural to just plain sick or weird. Notable people who took part in this form of cannibalism include Jeffery Dahmer, Albert Fish, Armin Meiwes, and many other notorious people. These people are the lowest of the low and almost always end up dying of unnatural causes or dying in prison. A rare exception to the case of cannibals ending up in jail or in a coffin was Issei Sagawa, a Japanese man who was convicted of killing and cannibalizing a Dutch woman, but was miraculously or not miraculously let go from prison due to an administration error. Sagawa is still alive and continues to live in Japan and has almost taken on a sort of celebrity status there. He is notoriously known for his actions and his actions were made very public. Somehow he gained positive fame from the negative act he committed. No matter the circumstance of cannibalism, a majority of people can agree that it entails very unpleasant elements. Cannibalism has very deep roots in human history, dating all the way back before the beginning of the modern human. Cannibalism has often been something that has been along with humans their entire history, but has been eluded in many history lessons. Eating a fellow human being is inhumane and should be avoided at all costs. Only in the direst of situations should one resort to cannibalism; a situation for survival should be the only case when this is necessary. As discussed, this is not the case. Other cultures, which are far different than modern western cultures, embrace cannibalism and take part in it as a part of daily life. Although the act is quite sickening, it is interesting and should governing bodies approve of the action, then their culture should be preserved, as humanity needs the diversity of cultures to thrive. Despite the mental and biological tolls that cannibalism takes on humans, people still ignore the consequences and take part in it. Then, every once in a while, the world encounters a westernized person who decides to go against cultural norms (often illegally) and cannibalize someone. This is once again where cannibalism can go from an interesting cultural phenomenon to a sickening fantasy, and the location in which the line can be boldly drawn. That being said, while cannibalism is strictly discouraged in almost all societies now, it is a part of human history and was one of the primitive mediums of intimidation and survival. The times have changed, but the motives of people have not and they still seek to conquer others, just through different tactics.
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(2017, 11). Anthropology: Cannibalism Research Report. EssaysForStudent.com. Retrieved 11, 2017, from