We share the planet with the cannibals
We share the planet with the cannibals

Nowadays, no, no, but we hear reports of cases of cannibalism, and in quite civilized societies.

The overwhelming majority of our (and not only our) fellow citizens consider the phenomenon of cannibalism as something out of the ordinary and, in general, belonging to history. Everyone has heard about the horrific traditions of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, were amazed in childhood by the description of the equally disgusting customs of New Zealanders-Maori in Jules Verne's Children of Captain Grant. However, even in our days, no, no, but we hear reports of cases of cannibalism, and in quite civilized societies. In early January, terrible news came from France. An emergency occurred in the prison in the city of Rouen: a quarrel broke out between two inmates, then one criminal killed and, as it turned out later, ate the heart of his cellmate. The next morning, the guards found a body with an open chest. This gives every reason to put forward a very impartial thesis: eating their own kind is, unfortunately, an integral part of the history of mankind - both ancient and modern.

We will leave the study of examples of forced and criminal-pathological cannibalism outside the scope of the article, limiting ourselves to a brief historical and ethnographic selection of facts.

An excursion into the past

There is a lot of evidence that in the most distant era, the ancestors of Homo sapiens ate the meat of their relatives. Excavations on the island of Java (Indonesia), in Eastern and Southern China have proven the cannibal essence of Pithecanthropus, who lived about half a million years ago. Local "gourmets" preferred to open the skulls of enemies (or friends?) And feast on the brain. “China, Indonesia … barbaric Asiaticism,” another reader will grin. And it will be fundamentally wrong.

Some groups of proto-Europeans were distinguished by the same tastes, and in much less "refined" forms. In 1996-2006, paleobiologist Antonio Rosas Gonzalez, who works at the Madrid National Museum of Natural Sciences (Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales), studied 43-thousand-year-old remains of Mousterian Neanderthals found in the north of the Iberian Peninsula Elostron in the system. Marks found on a number of fossil bones led to the conclusion that there were cases of collective cannibalism among this community. Moreover, the devoured bodies were dismembered, and the bones were also split - the cannibals thus sought to get to the pulp of the bone marrow.

His "Brazilian Diary" vividly described the aboriginal cannibalism
His "Brazilian Diary" vividly described the aboriginal cannibalism

Burgundian Jean de Lery (1529-1611) undertook a dangerous journey with his friends to Brazil. His "Brazilian Diary", vividly describing the cannibalism of the aborigines, was an outstanding success among his contemporaries. In 1578 it was published in French, eight years later a Latin translation appeared, and another seven years later a German translation. It was this last edition of 1593, equipped with engravings by Theodore de Brie, that the most famous pirate of the 16th century, Sir Francis Drake (Sir Francis Drake, 1540-1596), kept in his library. Some of de Brie's prints depicted scenes of cannibalistic orgies. Library of Congress, Rare Book & Special Collections Division

It should be clarified that the fact of close kinship of Neanderthals and humans proper is disputed by many representatives of the scientific world. According to the results of DNA analysis of extinct Homo neanderthalensis, the entire "branch" of Neanderthals "moved away" from the genealogical tree of Sapiens approximately 450-500 thousand years ago, and it seems that there are no more intersections in our pedigree, but indirect data and finds of strange hybrids let us know that this issue is far from being closed; however, this is a topic for another article.

Our direct ancestors, whom the Cro-Magnons are considered to be, judging by the evidence found in the Aurignac cave near Toulouse, also often "dabbled" in the meat of their fellow tribesmen. The results of excavations at ancient sites in Croatia, Northern Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium lead us to the same conclusion. On the territory of Europe, a similar practice existed until the first centuries of our era, which is reflected in the writings of Herodotus, Strabo, Saint Jerome and other historians. Ritual and forced cannibalism was widespread in the remote corners of Ireland, Scotland, Dalmatia, Spain, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Scandinavia, southern France, and southern Bohemia. In the history of Russia and adjacent lands, signs of mass ritual cannibalism have not been recorded at all. In the European Middle Ages, there are almost no traces of ritual cannibalism - extreme circumstances were forced to cannibalism. For example, the famine of 1315-1317.

Conveyor of sacrifices

By the time of the Great Geographical Discoveries, European expansion beyond the Christian ecumene had pitted white "civilizers" against ethnic groups for whom eating human flesh remained a normal practice. In Africa, North and South America, South and Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania - everywhere, stunned Europeans observed ritual-magical and other forms of cannibalism.

The nominal discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus, already during his second voyage, found irrefutable evidence of a cannibalistic feast on the island of Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles archipelago. But everything pales before the picture that opened to the conquistadors in Mexico. The very foundations of the Aztec state (1.5 million of their completely harmless descendants live in Central Mexico and now) were based on the cult of death. Mass human sacrifices were put on the conveyor belt, ritual cannibalism and vampirism were one of the main parts of the truly diabolical religion of local priests.

After seeing the bloody rituals, Hernan Cortes (1485-1547) considered it his religious duty to destroy this civilization. True, in popular literature it is customary to see in the conquistadors ordinary robbers and murderers who destroyed "the great, highly developed, highly cultured Indian states of the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas." Occultists of the last two centuries are looking for in the history of these tribal communities that "the wisdom of the Atlanteans", then the "heritage of prehuman races" …. Well, let's leave the anti-scientific, anti-historical nonsense on the conscience of its distributors.

The reasons why the British captain James Cook (1728-1779) was killed on the Hawaiian coast are still not completely clear
The reasons why the British captain James Cook (1728-1779) was killed on the Hawaiian coast are still not completely clear

The reasons why the British captain James Cook (1728-1779) was killed on the Hawaiian coast are still not completely clear. According to one version, he was eaten. Maybe even - "out of great respect"

It will be much more useful to recall that the flat-topped Mayan pyramids, so beloved by tourists, were intended specifically for human sacrifices designed to appease cruel idols. Corpses with their hearts torn out were thrown from the pyramids, after which they were eaten by the peasants (most often in the form of the main element of meat stew with pepper, tomatoes and pumpkin flowers).

From Brazil to the Great Plains, cannibalistic orgies flourished in American Indian communities, involving absolutely the entire population of the villages. In addition to the Aztecs and Mayans, the Iroquois, Hurons and Delaware, lovingly described by Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), their northern neighbors the Algonquins, the Kwakiutl tribal group from the Canadian Atlantic coast, the Natchez and Chickasaw from the shores Mississippi, Colombian Cauca, Brazilian Tupinamba and Botocuda, Chaco tribes of the Brazilian-Paraguayan-Bolivian borderlands. The Kwakiutl even developed a unique mythological system entirely focused on eating their own fellow tribesmen.

The above-mentioned Indian ethnic groups still successfully exist (except for the partially destroyed, partially assimilated tupinamba), numbering from several hundred people (Delaware, Huron, Botocuda) to many millions (Maya). Their traditions, however, have changed a lot: memories of cannibalistic rituals can be observed only in religious pantomimes arranged for tourists. The geographical location of these tribes played a role, as it turned out to be within the areas of the most intensive cultural and economic activity of white settlers. On the ethnic territory of the Aztecs and Mayans, megacities of Mexico City, Guadalajara arose, on the land of Kwakiutl, who ate their own kind right up to the beginning of the 20th century, the center of Western Canada was built Vancouver, the tribes of the Iroquois group from the pages of Cooper's books migrated to the vicinity of the largest urban areas of the northeastern United States …

Indian cannibalism is now localized in the depths of South America, in the remote areas of the Amazon jungle. Most often, local ethnic groups (Yanomama, Kokama, Amahuaka, etc.) “sin” with endocannibalism, that is, by eating the dead. Thus, posthumous respect is shown, and meat for the table of primitive nomad-gatherers is never superfluous. The corpses are eaten without a trace: ground bones are mixed with a mealy mass and used to make cakes or added to hallucinogenic drinks. Cannibalism itself remained only among the tribes of the western part of the Brazilian jungle, not in contact with government representatives. Savages kidnap hunters from more civilized groups that have gone too far into the forests, occasionally raiding small settlements.

Modern cannibals

In continental Asia, ritual cannibalism is largely outdated. Until the 1950s, the wildest ethnic groups of the Sino-Burmese and Lao-Vietnamese borderlands were engaged in headhunting, sometimes eating captives or their own old people (during the war with the United States, several hundred American soldiers were consumed by the tribes of Southwest Vietnam); by now, the governments of these countries have completely eliminated the abhorrent practice.

He began his new life by eating four babies
He began his new life by eating four babies

This Australian gardener told a chilling story to a Swiss tourist who photographed him about how, having arrived from Papua New Guinea, he began his new life by eating four babies, miraculously escaped the terrible revenge of the father of the last one eaten and settled in this secluded place. fleeing justice. Photo (Creative Commons license): pizzodisevo

Disputes among scholars about Tibetan cannibals, adherents of the secret Bon cult within the framework of local Lamaism, do not subside. Apparently, the colonial policy of China in the second half of the 20th century brought to naught the cannibal customs of some Tibetans.

The history of human sacrifice is very long in India. It is closely associated with Hindu religious beliefs and reached its zenith, interestingly, under British rule. At the same time, the eating of victims was common only in the northeast and south of India. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Assamese made annual sacrifices to the mother goddess Kali: the boiled lungs of the victims were eaten by the yogis, and the aristocracy was content with rice boiled in human blood. Ritual cannibalism for the glory of the Earth god Tari Pennu was developed among the Gondians, a large South Indian people.

To this day, a marginal sect operates in the south of India, which once spun off from the religious movement Virashivism. Its members (several thousand people) for ritual purposes eat the decomposed corpses of people and domestic animals, the remains of burnt human corpses, for ritual purposes, but they also do not disdain living people.

Speaking about cannibalism in insular Asia, we, of course, mean Indonesia - the most "cannibal" country in the modern world. In this state there are two famous centers of mass cannibalism - part of the island of New Guinea belonging to Indonesia and the island of Kalimantan (Borneo). The jungle of the latter is inhabited by 7-8 million Dayaks, famous skull hunters and cannibals. The most delicious parts of their body are the head (tongue, cheeks, skin from the chin, the brain extracted through the nasal cavity or ear opening), meat from the thighs and calves, heart, palms. Women are the initiators of the crowded hikes for the skulls of the Dayaks.

The most recent surge in cannibalism in Borneo occurred at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, when the Indonesian government tried to organize the colonization of the interior of the island by civilized immigrants from Java and Madura. Needless to say, the unfortunate peasant settlers and the soldiers accompanying them were, for the most part, slaughtered and eaten! Until recently, cannibalism continued on the island of Sumatra, where the Batak tribes ate criminals sentenced to death and incapacitated old people.

An important role in the almost complete elimination of cannibalism in Sumatra and some other islands (Sulawesi, Halmahera) was played by the activities of the "father of Indonesian independence" Sukarno and the military dictator Suharto. But even they could not improve the situation one iota in Irian Jaya - Indonesian New Guinea. The Papuan ethnic groups living there (Dugum Dani, Kapauku, Marind Anim, Asmat and others), according to the testimony of missionaries, are obsessed with a passion for human meat and are distinguished by unprecedented cruelty. They especially prefer the human liver with medicinal herbs, penises, noses, tongues, meat from the thighs, feet, breasts.

It should be noted that in the eastern part of the island of New Guinea (the independent state of Papua New Guinea), the facts of cannibalism are recorded much less than in Irian Jaya. But on the islands of Melanesia (New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands) cannibals are found here and there. And in Australia and New Zealand, cannibalism was finally outlived by the end of the 19th century.

This picturesque place in New Zealand is called Cannibal Bay
This picturesque place in New Zealand is called Cannibal Bay

This picturesque place in New Zealand is called Cannibal Bay, not because someone was eaten here. The travelers who landed here for the first time found many human remains, and could not think of another reason for their appearance. Photo (Creative Commons license): Tim Parkinson

In Africa, there are still quite a few cases of cannibalism. They are mainly associated with the activities of secret male unions in West Africa ("Society of Leopards", "Society of Alligators", etc.), and are still common in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Benin, Togo, South Africa, local tribes sometimes practice eating human flesh for ritual purposes. The Mau Mau movement in Kenya (1950s – 60s) stands apart, covering its sectarian, openly cannibalistic essence with ultranationalist, anti-European political slogans.

The press sometimes reports on cases of ritual cannibalism in Europe and the United States, allegedly practiced in a number of secret societies of the elite type. But so far this information can only be attributed to unverified rumors and left to the mercy of popular tabloids.

What can you say in conclusion? Our world is imperfect. People torture, kill and finally eat each other. Some writers and philosophers, especially those who welcome the idea of “new nomads” and advocate total de-industrialization, regard the cannibalism of primitive ethnic groups as a necessary condition for the preservation of their national identity. Others explain this phenomenon in line with Freudianism, also actually justifying its existence. What would Cortez say to that?..

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