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Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos 5MTUMR-2346

Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos 5MTUMR-2346

Tim D. White
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 492
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  • Book Info
    Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos 5MTUMR-2346
    Book Description:

    Cannibalism is one of the oldest and most emotionally charged topics in anthropological literature. Tim White's analysis of human bones from an Anasazi pueblo in southwestern Colorado, site 5MTUMR-2346, reveals that nearly thirty men, women, and children were butchered and cooked there around A.D. 1100. Their bones were fractured for marrow, and the remains discarded in several rooms of the pueblo. By comparing the human skeletal remains with those of animals used for food at other sites, the author analyzes evidence for skinning, dismembering, cooking, and fracturing to infer that cannibalism took place at Mancos. As White evaluates claims for cannibalism in ethnographic and archaeological contexts worldwide, he describes how cultural biases can often distort the interpretation of scientific data. This book applies and introduces anatomical, taphonomic, zooarchaeological, and forensic methods in the investigation of prehistoric human behavior. It is an important example of how we can exchange opinion for knowledge. "Cannibalism is a controversial topic because many people do not want to believe that their prehistoric ancestors engaged in such activity, but they will be hard put to reject this meticulous study."--Kent V. Flannery, University of Michigan "This is the best piece of detailed research yet to appear that seeks to put in place a body of justified knowledge and a procedure for its use in making inferences about the past. No student of bones can ignore this work."--Lewis R. Binford, University of New Mexico "This could be one of the most important books in archaeology written in the last decade."--James F. O'Connell, University of Utah "Paleontologists and zooarchaeologists, archaeologists and physical anthropologists, taphonomists, and forensic scientists should all read this work. Quite frankly, I think this will become one of the most important books of the 1990s..."--R. Lee Lyman, University of Missouri-Columbia

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5292-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-2)
  7. CHAPTER 1 The Trail to Mancos
    (pp. 3-6)

    Why would a physical anthropologist who has worked primarily on Pliocene hominid fossils from Africa be drawn to the archaeology of the American Southwest? There is a vast gulf between the hominids of Ethiopia’s Afar depression and the Anasazi inhabitants of southwestern Colorado in the dimensions of time, space, anatomy, and behavior. Yet a fossil from the Afar posed questions that led me down a trail to Mancos Canyon.

    In several respects, this study is rooted in the year 1973. That year French geologist Maurice Taieb was joined in Ethiopia by American graduate student Donald Johanson. They discovered remains of...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Cannibalism Past and Present
    (pp. 7-30)

    Cannibalism, ancestral or contemporary, fascinates. One human’s consumption of another is an activity, whether in fact or fantasy, which undoubtedly held the attention of the public and the scholarly community long before Herodotus provided us with the first written, but secondhand accounts. Human cannibalism is a behavior that continues to hold considerable interest for the anthropologist. Indeed, the study of cannibalism might appear to be one of the only remnants of anthropological turf on which the research of ethnologists, archaeologists, and physical anthropologists might still be supported simultaneously (see Figure 2.1). Hayden succinctly (1981:344) reminds us, however, of the diminishing...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Cannibalism in the Prehistoric Southwest: Mancos 5MTUMR–2346 and Its Context
    (pp. 31-64)

    Evidence of cannibalism in the archaeological record is far more restricted than ethnohistorical accounts of the practice would predict. Ironically, some of the most secure evidence for cannibalism comes fromprehistoric contexts. Compounding the irony is the fact that the best evidence is from Europe and the American Southwest—geographic areas in which the ethnohistorical record on cannibalism is limited (see Volhard, 1939 for a global overview).

    The European Neolithic site of Fontbrégoua provides excellent, but unique, data bearing on prehistoric cannibalism. Besides the thorough analysis of the recovered skeletal material, the strength of the case for cannibalism at this...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Analytical Background and Conjoining
    (pp. 65-83)

    In 1984 I visited Mesa Verde to view the Mancos 5MTUMR–2346 collection. Upon noting striking similarities between undocumented damage patterns on the Mancos collection and the collections from Polacca and Leroux washes stored at the Museum of Northern Arizona, permission to borrow the Mancos 5MTUMR–2346 material from the Ute Mountain Tribe and Mesa Verde National Park was sought. The assistance of Robert Heyder, Jack Smith, and Allen Bohnert at Mesa Verde; David Breternitz, Paul Nickens, and Larry Nordby of the original excavation team; and Art Cuthair of the Ute Mountain Tribe was important in arranging the loan and...

  11. CHAPTER 5 The Mancos 5MTUMR–2346 Sample: A Biological Background
    (pp. 84-99)

    Over 25 percent of the 2,106 specimens constituting the Mancos 5MTUMR–2346 assemblage participated in joins. Although this value is high for an archaeological assemblage, the results of the conjoining exercise fell far short of providing a series of intact skeletons for analysis. Rather, the conjoining made the specimens under analysis somewhat less fragmentary. The nature of the bone fragmentation and other damage attributes and patterns are dealt with in detail in the chapters that follow. Here the Mancos assemblage is assessed from a more traditional physical anthropological perspective, assessing the number of individuals and the skeletal biology of these...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Method and Theory: Physical Anthropology Meets Zooarchaeology
    (pp. 100-163)

    Investigation of the Mancos assemblage called for a combination of faunal analysis (the study of nonhuman animal remains from archaeological sites, or “zooarchaeology”; Olsen and Olsen, 1981) and human osteology (traditionally the work of the physical anthropologist). In this chapter I provide the methodological background for the Mancos analysis, defining the attributes used and introducing the occurrence of these attributes within the assemblage. These attributes are used in Chapters 7 to 11 for a functional assessment of damage patterns to the Mancos assemblage, and in Chapter 12 for a comparison of the Mancos assemblage to other assemblages.

    As Yellen (1977)...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Head
    (pp. 164-207)

    The background to the Mancos assemblage provided in Chapters 1 to 6 makes it appropriate to now turn to an element-by-element consideration of these human skeletal remains. This consideration of the maximally conjoined assemblage is aimed at a functional elucidation of the bone modification observed. The patterns of survival and damage for each element in the skeleton are assessed in Chapters 7 through 12. These chapters group skeletal elements into five body segments: the head (this chapter), the trunk (Chapter 8), the upper limb (Chapter 9), the lower limb (Chapter 10), and the hands and feet (Chapter 11). Figure 7.1...

  14. CHAPTER 8 The Thorax, Pelvis, and Shoulder Girdle
    (pp. 208-237)

    Osteologically, the elements of the thorax (vertebrae, ribs, and sternum), the pelvis (sacrum, os coxae, and coccyx), and the shoulder girdle (scapulae and clavicles) exist as isolated elements in the adult state and are therefore easier to treat systematically than cranial elements. For many postcranial elements, particularly the vertebrae, it is easy to sort young children from adults, but fragmentary vertebrae of 12-year-old children may be difficult to separate from those of small adults. Therefore, the age identifications on pieces representing postcranial elements are very rough approximations. The descriptions and interpretations that follow group the elements of the trunk by...

  15. CHAPTER 9 The Arm
    (pp. 238-249)

    The elements of the arm—the humerus, radius, and ulna—are all long bones whose articular ends are easily identified, but whose shaft fragments are more difficult to attribute to element and side. Evidence for processing of the three arm bones is described from proximal to distal ends in the account that follows, and processing of the arm as a unit is described in the final section in this chapter.

    The total postconjoining MNI of 17 individuals was derived from the maximally conjoined assemblage; 9 individuals are subadult. Conjoining has dramatic consequences for the humeral assemblage, allowing for the interpretation...

  16. CHAPTER 10 The Leg
    (pp. 250-267)

    The major leg elements—the femur, tibia, and fibula—are all long bones whose articular ends are easily identified. The patella is a large sesamoid bone. Evidence for processing of these four leg bones is described in the account that follows. Processing of the leg as a unit is described in the final section of the chapter.

    Of the total MNI of 20 individuals derived from the maximally conjoined assemblage, 7 individuals were younger than 6 years at death, and 4 individuals were between 7 and 12 years. No femur is preserved intact, but survival of the immature specimens is...

  17. CHAPTER 11 The Hand and Foot
    (pp. 268-277)

    Serial homology of the elements of the hand and foot makes it possible to present analytical results for the maximally conjoined assemblage of these anatomical units together in the same chapter. Separate summaries of hand and foot processing are included in this presentation.

    All the surviving carpals are from individuals older than 12 years. An MNI of 2 is indicated by mismatched right and left hamates. All the carpals are intact or slightly abraded.

    There is no indication of intentional fracture.

    There are no toolmarks.

    None of the carpals are burned. Minimum numbers estimates were made by sorting the specimens...

  18. CHAPTER 12 Comparative Analysis
    (pp. 278-336)

    The attributes recorded during the assessment of the Mancos 5MTUMR–2346 human bone assemblage were defined and described in Chapter 6. These attributes were employed in Chapters 7 to 11 in a segment-by-segment, functionally oriented analysis of the maximally conjoined Mancos skeletal assemblage. That study was made from the perspective of a human anatomist/physical anthropologist. It documented considerable evidence for human-induced modification of the Mancos assemblage, including burning of body segments, disarticulation, crushing of the spongy bone, and entry, via percussion, to the limb bones and endocranial cavity. Relationships between bone modification and the once-present soft tissues were demonstrated for...

  19. CHAPTER 13 Evaluation
    (pp. 337-366)

    During the first half of the twelfth century, the skeletal remains of seventeen adults and twelve children came to rest upon the floors and in the room fill of a small pueblo (now designated 5MTUMR–2346) in the Mancos Canyon of south-western Colorado. Little is known about the canyon-bottom community of maize agriculturalists to whom this pueblo belonged. It is possible that the bony remains represent several individuals who did not reside at this particular pueblo, but there is no osteological evidence to indicate that the remains are not Anasazi.

    Contextual data suggest that the remains were deposited simultaneously. Most...

  20. Appendix 1 Catalog of Southwest Archaeological Sites with Evidence Interpreted as Indicating Cannibalism
    (pp. 367-381)
  21. Appendix 2 Mancos 5MTUMR–2346 Human Bone Specimen Databases
    (pp. 382-421)
  22. Appendix 3 Procedures for the Recovery and Analysis of Broken and Scattered Human Bone from Archaeological and Forensic Contexts
    (pp. 422-426)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 427-458)
  24. Index
    (pp. 459-462)