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This article is about eating one's own species. For usage about marketing and mechanical recycling, see Cannibalization.
Cannibalism in Brazil in 1557 as alleged by Hans Staden.

Cannibalism (from Spanish caníbal, in connection with alleged cannibalism among the Caribs), also called anthropophagy (from Greek anthropos "man" and phagein "to eat") is the act or practice of humans eating other humans. In zoology, the term cannibalism is extended to refer to any species eating members of its own kind.

Care should be taken to distinguish among ritual cannibalism sanctioned by a cultural code, cannibalism by necessity occurring in extreme situations of famine, and cannibalism by mentally disturbed persons.


[edit] Origin of the term

The word cannibal comes from Spanish Caníbal (used first in plural Caníbales), derived from Caniba, Christopher Columbus's name for the Carib or Galibi people<ref>Merriam-Webster; Oxford Dictionary of Etymology;</ref>, which constitutes a verbal confluence:

  • Columbus originally assumed the natives of Cuba were subjects of the Great Khan of China or 'Kannibals'.[citation needed] Prepared to meet the Great Khan, he had aboard Arabic and Hebrew speakers to translate.
  • Then thinking he heard Caniba or Canima, he thought that these were the dog-headed men (cane-bal) described in Mandeville.
  • The Caribs called themselves Kalinago which, according to some scholars, meant 'valiant man'.<ref>Raymond Breton, 1647, Relations on the Caribs of Dominica and Guadalupe; Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, Volume XIV, 1905: 451.</ref>

Richard Hakluyt's Voyages introduced the word to English. Shakespeare transposed it, anagram-fashion, to name his monster servant in The Tempest 'Caliban'.

[edit] Overview

The Carib tribe acquired a longstanding reputation as cannibals following the recording of their legends by Fr. Breton in the 17th century. Some controversy exists over the accuracy of these legends and the prevalence of actual cannibalism in the culture.

According to a decree by Queen Isabella of Castile and also later under British colonial rule, slavery was considered to be illegal unless the people involved were so depraved that their conditions as slaves would be better than as free men. Demonstrations of cannibalistic tendencies were considered evidence of such depravity, and hence reports of cannibalism became widespread.<ref>Brief history of cannibal controversies; David F. Salisbury, August 15, 2001</ref> This legal requirement might have led to conquerors exaggerating the extent of cannibalistic practices, or inventing them altogether.

The Korowai tribe of southeastern Papua could be one of the last surviving tribes in the world engaging in cannibalism.

In many wars in Africa, cannibalism is said to occur commonly, although in peacetime it does not appear to happen except for isolated cases involving traditional medicine.

Marvin Harris has analysed cannibalism and other food taboos. He argued that it was common when humans lived in small bands, but disappeared in the transition to states, the Aztecs being an exception.

A well known case of mortuary cannibalism is that of the Foré tribe in New Guinea which resulted in the spread of the disease Kuru. It is well documented and not seriously questioned by modern anthropologists, except by those scholars arguing that although post-mortem dismemberment was the practice during funeral rites, cannibalism was not. Marvin Harris theorizes that it happened during a famine period coincident with the arrival of Europeans and was rationalized as a religious rite.

In pre-modern medicine, an explanation for cannibalism stated that it came about within a black acrimonious humour, which, being lodged in the linings of the ventricle, produced the voracity for human flesh. <ref>This article incorporates content from the 1728 Cyclopaedia, a publication in the public domain. Anthropophagy.</ref>

[edit] Historical accounts

[edit] Early history era

  • In Germany some experts like Emil Carthaus and Dr. Bruno Bernhard found 1891 signs of cannibalism in the caves at the Hönne (BC 1000 - 700).
  • Cannibalism is reported in the Bible during the siege of Samaria (2 Kings 6:25-30). Two women made a pact to eat their children, but after the first mother cooked her child, the second mother ate it but refused to reciprocate by cooking her own child. Almost exactly the same story is reported by Flavius Josephus during the siege of Jerusalem by Rome in 70AD.
  • Cannibalism was documented in Egypt during a famine caused by the failure of the Nile to flood for eight years (AD 1064-1072).

[edit] Middle ages

  • Cannibalism was practiced by the participants of the First Crusade. Some of the crusaders fed on the bodies of their dead opponents after the capture of the Arab town of Ma'arrat al-Numan. [1] . Amin Maalouf also discusses further cannibalism incidents on the march to Jerusalem, and to the efforts made to delete mention of these from western history. (Amin Maalouf, The Crusades through Arab Eyes. Schocken, 1989, ISBN 0-8052-0898-4)
  • In Europe during the Great Famine of 1315–1317, at a time when Dante was writing one of the most significant pieces of literature in western history and the Renaissance was just beginning, there were widespread reports of cannibalism throughout Europe. However, many historians have since denied these reports as fanciful and ambiguous.
  • Cannibalism was reported in Mexico, the flower wars of the Aztec Empire being considered as the most massive manifestation of cannibalism, but the Aztec accounts, written after the conquest, reported that human flesh was considered by itself to be of no value, and usually thrown away and replaced with turkey. There are only two Aztec accounts on this subject: one comes from the Ramirez codex, and the most elaborated account on this subject comes from Juan Bautista de Pomar, the grandson of Netzahualcoyotl, tlatoani of Texcoco. The accounts differ little. Juan Bautista wrote that after the sacrifice, the Aztec warriors received the body of the victim, then they boiled it to separate the flesh from the bones, then they would cut the meat in very little pieces, and send them to important people, even from other towns; the recipient would rarely eat the meat, since they considered it an honour, but the meat had no value by itself. In exchange, the warrior would get jewels, decorated blankets, precious feathers and slaves; the purpose was to encourage successful warriors. There were only two ceremonies a year where war captives were sacrificed. Although the Aztec empire has been called "The Cannibal Kingdom", there is no evidence in support of it being a widespread custom.
  • Aztecs believed that there were man-eating tribes in the south of Mexico; the only illustration known showing an act of cannibalism shows an Aztec being eaten by a tribe from the south (Florentine Codex). In the siege of Tenochtitlan, there was a severe hunger in the city; people reportedly ate lizards, grass, insects, and mud from the lake, but there are no reports on cannibalism of the dead bodies.
  • The friar Diego de Landa reported about Yucatán instances, Yucatan before and after the Conquest, translated from Relación de las cosas de Yucatan, 1566 (New York: Dover Publications, 1978: 4), and there have been similar reports by Purchas from Popayan, Colombia, and from the Marquesas Islands of Polynesia, where human flesh was called long-pig (Alanna King, ed., Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Seas, London: Luzac Paragon House, 1987: 45-50). It is recorded about the natives of the captaincy of Sergipe in Brazil, They eat human flesh when they can get it, and if a woman miscarries devour the abortive immediately. If she goes her time out, she herself cuts the navel-string with a shell, which she boils along with the secondine, and eats them both. (See E. Bowen, 1747: 532.)

[edit] Early modern era

  • The earliest reliable account of cannibalism in North America was in the early 1600's, in Jamestown, VA. One man killed and salted his wife.[citation needed]
  • An event occurring in the western New York territory ("Seneca Country") U.S.A., during 1687 was later described in this letter sent to France: “On the 13th (of July) about four o’clock in the afternoon, having passed through two dangerous defiles (narrow gorges), we arrived at the third where we were vigorously attacked by 800 Senecas, 200 of whom fired, wishing to attack our rear whilst the remainder of their force would attack our front, but the resistance they met produced such a great consternation that they soon resolved to fly. All our troops were so overpowered by the extreme heat and the long journey we had made that we were obliged to bivouac (camp) on the field until the morrow. We witnessed the painful Sight of the usual cruelties of the savages who cut the dead into quarters, as in slaughter houses, in order to put them into the pot (dinner); the greater number were opened while still warm that their blood might be drank. our rascally outaouais (Ottawa Indians) distinguished themselves particularly by these barbarities and by their poltroonery (cowardice), for they withdrew from the combat;..." -- Canadian Governor, the Marquis de Denonville.
  • Captain James Cook, the famous navigator, was killed in Hawai'i in 1779; it is strongly alleged that his body was ritually consumed.
  • The survivors of the sinking of the French ship Medusa in 1816 resorted to cannibalism after four days adrift on a raft.
  • In the 1870s, in the U.S. state of Colorado, a man named Alferd Packer was accused of killing and eating his travelling companions. He was later released due to a legal technicality, and maintained that he was innocent of the murders throughout his life. However, modern forensic evidence, unavailable during Packer's lifetime, indicates that he did indeed murder and/or eat several of his companions. The story of Alfred Packer was satirically told in the Trey Parker comedy/horror/musical film, Cannibal! The Musical, released in 1996 by Troma Studios.

[edit] Modern era

  • The case of R v. Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273 (QB) is an English case which is said to be one of the origins of the defense of necessity in modern common law. The case dealt with four crewmembers of an English yacht which were cast away in a storm some 1600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope. After several days one of the crew fell unconscious due to a combination of the famine and drinking sea-water. The others (one objecting) decided then to kill him and eat him. They were picked up four days later. The fact that not everyone had agreed to draw lots contravened The Custom of the Sea and was held to be murder. At the trial was the first recorded use of the defence of necessity.
  • References to cannibalizing the enemy has also been seen in poetry written when China was repressed in the Song Dynasty. (See Man Jiang Hong) The Chinese hate-cannibalism was reported during WWII also.(Key Ray Chong:Cannibalism in China, 1990)
  • Cannibalism was reported by at least one reliable witness, the journalist Neil Davis during the South East Asian wars of the 1960s and 1970s. Davis reported that Khmer (Cambodian) troops ritually ate portions of the slain enemy, typically the liver. However he, and many refugees, also report that cannibalism was practised non-ritually when there was no food to be found. This usually occurred when towns and villages were under Khmer Rouge control, and food was strictly rationed, leading to widespread starvation. Any civilian caught participating in cannibalism would have been immediately executed. <ref>Tim Bowden. One Crowded Hour. ISBN 0-00-217496-0</ref>
  • Cannibalism has been reported in several recent African conflicts, including the Second Congo War, and the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Typically, this is apparently done in desperation, as during peacetime cannibalism is much less frequent. Even so, it is sometimes directed at certain groups believed to be relatively helpless, such as Congo Pygmies. It is also reported by some that African traditional healers sometimes use the body parts of children in their medicine.
  • It has been reported by defectors and refugees that, at the height of the famine in the 1990's, cannibalism was sometimes practiced in North Korea.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières, the international medical charity, supplied photographic and other documentary evidence of ritualised cannibal feasts among the participants in Liberia's internecine strife in the 1980s to representatives of Amnesty International who were on a fact-finding mission to the neighbouring state of Guinea. However, Amnesty International declined to publicise this material, the Secretary-General of the organization, Pierre Sane, stating at the time in an internal communication that "what they do with the bodies after human rights violations are committed is not part of our mandate or concern". The existence of cannibalism on a wide scale in Liberia and Sierra Leone was subsequently verified in video documentaries by Journeyman Pictures of London.
  • In September 2006, Australian television crews from 60 Minutes and Today Tonight attempted to rescue a 6 year old boy who they believed would be ritually cannibalised by his tribe, the Korowai, from Papua, Indonesia.

[edit] Cannibalism by necessity

Cannibalism is also sometimes practiced as a last resort by people suffering from famine. In the US, it is commonly believed that the group of settlers known as the Donner party resorted to cannibalism while snowbound in the mountains for the winter. The last survivors of Sir John Franklin's Expedition were found to have resorted to cannibalism in their final push across King William Island towards the Back River.<ref>Beattie, Owen and Geiger, John (2004). Frozen in Time. ISBN 1-55365-060-3.</ref> There are disputed claims that cannibalism was widespread during the famine in Ukraine in the 1930s, during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II [4] [5] [6], and during the Chinese Civil War and the Great Leap Forward in the People's Republic of China. It has been claimed that cannibalism was practiced by Japanese troops as recently as WWII in the Pacific theater.<ref>Tanaka, Toshiyuki, and Tanaka, Yuki (1996). Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II. ISBN 0-8133-2717-2.</ref> A more recent example is of leaked stories from North Korean refugees of cannibalism practiced during and after a famine that occurred sometime between 1995 and 1997. [7]

Lowell Thomas records the cannibalisation of some of the surviving crew members of the Dumaru after the ship exploded and sank during the First World War in his book, The Wreck of the Dumaru (1930).

Documentary and forensic evidence supports eyewitness accounts of cannibalism by Japanese troops during World War II. This practice was resorted to when food ran out, with Japanese soldiers killing and eating each other when enemy civilians were not available. In other cases, enemy soldiers were executed and then dissected. A well-documented case occurred in Chichi Jima in 1945, when Japanese soldiers killed and ate eight downed American airmen. This case was investigated in 1947 in a war-crimes trial, and of 30 Japanese soldiers prosecuted, five (Maj. Matoba, Gen. Tachibana, Adm. Mori, Capt. Yoshii and Dr. Teraki) were found guilty and hanged.

When Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into the Andes on October 13, 1972, the survivors resorted to eating the deceased during their 72 days in the mountains. Their story was later recounted in the books Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors and Miracle in the Andes as well as the film Alive by Frank Marshall and the documentary Alive: 20 Years Later.

[edit] "Cannibalism" as cultural libel

See also: Blood libel

Unsubstantiated reports of cannibalism disproportionately relate cases of cannibalism among cultures that are already otherwise despised, feared, or are little known. In antiquity, Greek reports of anthropophagy were related to distant, non-Hellenic barbarians, or else relegated in myth to the 'primitive' chthonic world that preceded the coming of the Olympian gods: see the explicit rejection of human sacrifice in the cannibal feast prepared for the Olympians by Tantalus of his son Pelops. In 1994, printed booklets reported that in a Yugoslavian concentration camp of Manjaca the Bosnian refugees were forced to eat each other's bodies. The reports were false.

William Arens, author of The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy (New York : Oxford University Press, 1979; ISBN 0-19-502793-0), questions the credibility of reports of cannibalism and argues that the description by one group of people of another people as cannibals is a consistent and demonstrable ideological and rhetorical device to establish perceived cultural superiority. Arens bases his thesis on a detailed analysis of numerous "classic" cases of cultural cannibalism cited by explorers, missionaries, and anthropologists. His findings were that many were steeped in racism, unsubstantiated, or based on second-hand or hearsay evidence. In combing the literature he could not find a single credible eye-witness account. And, as he points out, the hallmark of ethnography is the observation of a practice prior to description. In the end he concluded that cannibalism was not the widespread prehistoric practice it was claimed to be; that anthropologists were too quick to pin the cannibal label on a group based not on responsible research but on our own culturally-determined pre-conceived notions, often motivated by a need to exoticize. He wrote:

"Anthropologists have made no serious attempt to disabuse the public of the widespread notion of the ubiquity of anthropophagists. … in the deft hands and fertile imaginations of anthropologists, former or contemporary anthropophagists have multiplied with the advance of civilization and fieldwork in formerly unstudied culture areas. …The existence of man-eating peoples just beyond the pale of civilization is a common ethnographic suggestion."

Aren's findings are controversial, and his argument is often mischaracterized as "cannibals don't and never did exist," when in the end the book is actually a call for a more responsible and reflexive approach to anthropological research. At any rate, the book ushered in an era of rigorous combing of the cannibalism literature. By Aren's later admission, some cannibalism claims came up short, others were reinforced.

Conversely, Michel de Montaigne's essay "Of cannibals" introduced a new multicultural note in European civilization. Montaigne wrote that "one calls 'barbarism' whatever he is not accustomed to." By using a title like that and describing a fair indigean society, Montaigne may wished to provoke a surprise in the reader of his Essays.

Similarly, Japanese scholars (e.g. Kuwabara Jitsuzo) branded the Chinese culture as cannibalistic in certain propagandistic works — which served as ideological justification for the assumed superiority of the Japanese during World War II.

[edit] Sexually motivated cannibalism

The wide use of the Internet has highlighted that thousands of people harbor sexualized cannibalistic fantasies. Discussion fora and user groups exist for the exchange of pictures and stories of such fantasies, a good example of which is provided by the works of Dolcett. Typically, people in such forums fantasize about eating or being eaten by members of their sexually preferred gender. As such, the cannibalism fetish or paraphilia is one of the most extreme sexual fetishes. Very rarely do such fetishes leave the realm of fantasies, most being satisfied with pornographic stories, fetish art or photo modification (or completely computer generated images), with some enacting their fantasies in sexual roleplaying.

There have however been extreme cases of real life sexualized cannibalism, such as those of the serial killers Albert Fish, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Sascha Spesiwtsew, Fritz Haarmann ("the Butcher of Hannover"), Andrei Chikatilo and Armin Meiwes.

Another well-known case involved a Japanese student of English literature, Issei Sagawa, who grew fond of Renée Hartevelt, a 25-year-old Dutch woman he met while studying at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris in 1981. He eventually murdered and ate her, writing a graphic yet poignant description of the act. Declared unfit to stand trial in France, his wealthy father had him extradited back to Japan where he eventually regained his freedom. The way he reveled in what he did made him a national celebrity, and he has written several bestselling novels and continues to write a nationally syndicated column. The story inspired the 1981 Stranglers song "La Folie" and the 1983 Rolling Stones song "Too Much Blood".

In December 2002, a highly unusual case was uncovered in the town of Rotenburg in Hesse, Germany. In 2001 Armin Meiwes, a 41-year-old computer administrator, had posted messages like his more recent ones (see messages) in Internet newsgroups on the subject of cannibalism, repeatedly looking for "a young Boy, between 18 and 25 y/o" to butcher. At least one of his requests was successful: Jürgen Brandes, another computer administrator, offered himself to be slaughtered. The two men agreed on a meeting. Jürgen Brandes was, with his consent, killed and partially eaten by Meiwes, who, as a result, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail for manslaughter (Totschlag, second-degree murder). In April 2005, the German Federal Court of Justice ordered a retrial upon appeal of the prosecution, and in May 2006 Meiwes was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The band Rammstein took up this case in the song Mein Teil.

This was not the first consensual killing mediated through the Internet (see Sharon Lopatka), but it is the first such known case of consensual cannibalism.

The online environment Second Life features several user-created areas dedicated to sexual cannibalism.

[edit] Cannibal themes in mythology and religion

Cannibalism features prominently in many mythologies; cannibal ogresses appear in folklore around the world, the witch in Hansel and Gretel being a popular example.

A number of stories in Greek mythology involve cannibalism, in particular cannibalism of close family members, for example the stories of Thyestes, Tereus and especially Cronus. The story of Tantalus also parallels this. These mythologies inspired Shakespeare's cannibalism scene in Titus Andronicus.

The opening of Hell, the Zoroastrian contribution to Western religious thought, is a mouth. According to Catholic dogma, bread and wine are transubstantiated into the real flesh and blood of Jesus, which are then distributed by the priest to the faithful. The accusations of cannibalism made against ancient Christians may reflect earlier versions of such beliefs but should also be understood as a form of libel (see above), expressing anxiety and concern about a new and somewhat secretive religious group. Christians in turn accused their opponents, such as the Gnostic sect of the Borborites, of cannibalism and ritual abuse.

In the Qur'an Backbiters are stigmatized as those who eat the flesh of the dead body of the person they backbited.

In Hindu mythology, cannibals are usually forest-dwellers that refuse to join society and are known as Raksasa. However, there have also been Raksasas such as Ravana, said to be shape-shifting creatures.

[edit] Cannibalism as sympathetic magic

Cannibalism as "sympathetic magic" is a subset of the general idea of eating a totem to absorb its distinctive power, much as a tiger penis might be eaten to promote virility. By eating our enemy, we take his power into ourselves. Some also consider this idea to be at the root of the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation: to acquire divinity (immortality, sinlessnes) by absorption, by eating the flesh of God. (However, the more likely Biblical theological and historical roots of this are pertaining to the sacrificial offering of Christ and its reference to the representations in the Jewish Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was being celebrated during the Last Supper.)

[edit] Non-cannibalistic consumption of human-derived substances

It is interesting to note that currently the cheapest source of material from which food grade L-cysteine may be purified in high yield is human hair. Its use in food products is widespread worldwide.

Few people identify the compulsion to gnaw and bite nails or pieces of skin from fingers as cannibalism, because it is not the intentional harvest of a food item. Similarly, intentionally consuming one's own flesh or body parts, such as sucking blood from wounds, is generally not seen to be cannibalism; ingesting one's own blood from an unintentional lesion such as a nose-bleed or an ulcer is clearly not intentional harvesting and consequently not cannibalistic.

It is possible for some mothers to gain possession of their afterbirth or placenta once their child is born. Some people eat this placenta material as a delicacy. See placentophagy.

There are many accounts of drinking urine and coprophagia. These may be toward fetishistic, allegedly homeopathic, or survival-based ends. Aboard space flights and the International Space Station, urine is regularly filtered for drinking water.

[edit] Non-human cannibalism

Main article: cannibalism (zoology)
Image:Mormon cricket cannibals.jpg
Three Mormon crickets eating a fourth Mormon cricket

Cannibalism is a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded for more than 1500 species (this estimate is from 1981, and likely a gross underestimation). In sexual cannibalism as recorded for example for the female red-back spider, black widow spider, praying mantis, and scorpion the female eats the male after mating (though the frequency of this is often overstated). The more common form of cannibalism is size structured cannibalism, in which large individuals consume smaller ones. In such size-structured populations, cannibalism can be responsible for 8% (Belding Ground Squirrel) to 95% (dragonfly larvae) of the total mortality, making it a significant and important factor for population and community dynamics. Such size structured cannibalism has commonly been observed in the wild for a variety of taxa, including octopus, bats, toads, fish, monitor lizards, red-backed salamanders and several stream salamanders, crocodiles, spiders, crustaceans, birds (crows, barred owls), mammals, and a vast number of insects, such as dragonflies, diving beetles, back swimmers, water striders, flour beetles, caddisflies and many more. Unlike previously believed, cannibalism is not just a result of extreme food shortage or artificial conditions, but commonly occurs under natural conditions in a variety of species. In fact, scientists have acknowledged that it is ubiquitous in natural communities. Cannibalism seems to be especially prevalent in aquatic communities, in which up to ~90% of the organisms engage in cannibalism at some point of the life cycle. Cannibalism is also not restricted to carnivorous species, but is commonly found in herbivores and detritivores. Another common form of cannibalism is infanticide. Classical examples include the chimpanzees where groups of adult males have been observed to attack and consume their infants, and lions, where adult males commonly kill infants when they take over a new harem after replacing the previous dominant males.Also, gerbils eat their young if they are stillborn.

[edit] Cannibalism in popular culture

Cannibalism is a recurring theme in literature and film. Well-known examples include Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus; Hannibal Lecter, a fictional character created by Thomas Harris in the 1983 novel Red Dragon who also appeared in Harris's 1988 The Silence of the Lambs, 1999 Hannibal and 2006 Hannibal Rising; the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, which features cannibalistic killer Leatherface and his murderous family; and Delicatessen, a 1993 black comedy film written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Cannibalism was also used as a central theme of the Torchwood episode countrycide.

Famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera claimed in his autobiography that during a period in 1904, he and his companions ate "nothing but cadavers" purchased from the local morgue. Rivera was fully aware of the shock value of this tale. Rivera claims that he thought cannibalism a way of the future, remarking "I believe that when man evolves a civilization higher than the mechanized but still primitive one he has now, the eating of human flesh will be sanctioned. For then man will have thrown off all of his superstitions and irrational taboos." Readers may be reminded of the savage satire of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal.

Oswald de Andrade's Cannibal Manifesto was an influential work of Brazilian modernism, comparing literal cannibalism to the postcolonial reappropriation of European culture, art, and ideas.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External links

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