Articles

Cannibalism in the Neolithic

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Science  25 Jul 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4762, pp. 431-437
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4762.431

Abstract

Cannibalism is a provocative interpretation put forth repeatedly for practices at various prehistoric sites, yet it has been so poorly supported by objective evidence that later, more critical reviews almost invariably reject the proposal. The basic data essential to a rigorous assessment of a cannibalism hypothesis include precise contextual information, analysis of postcranial and cranial remains of humans and animals, and detailed bone modification studies. Such data are available from the Neolithic levels of the Fontbrégoua Cave (southeastern France) where several clusters of human and animal bones have been excavated. The analysis of these bones strongly suggests that humans were butchered, processed, and probably eaten in a manner that closely parallels the treatment of wild and domestic animals at Fontbrbégoua.