General, Research, Technology

Why does ritual cannibalism still exist?

How long do you think cannibalism has been? Researchers believe that for more than 15 thousand years, during a period of profound transformation, several groups of people in Europe used human skulls as cups in ritual practices that included cannibalism. Analysis of the cut marks on skull fragments found in the Gran Valley and El Mirador Cave in Atapuerca (Spain), Gough Cave (Great Britain) in Fonbregua (France) and Herksheim (Germany), reveals a great similarity of similar human remains in several regions of Europe , and the time period varies from 20,000 to 4,000 years ago. The study is published in the journal Journal of Archaeological Science.

Cannibalism is much more common than researchers thought

Religious rituals and cannibalism

As reported in an interview with El paiscoordinator and lead author of the study, Palmira Saladi of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona, ritual cannibalism is found in Paleolithic societies that lived as collectors, neolithic hunters (with the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry) and even in the Bronze Age, when metals have already been used. They are very widespread and belong to different periods. But the most interesting thing is that scientists do not know why.

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In modern culture, eating other peopleis unacceptable, so it was believed that aversion to human flesh is also characteristic of primitive societies. There is even an evolutionary explanation for the poor reputation of cannibalism. Daniel Carlton Gayduzek, an American pediatrician and virologist, discovered that kuru, a prion disease similar to mad cow disease, was often observed among New Guineans and was associated with the habit of eating parts of dead relatives. It is possible that such epidemics contributed to the survival of groups that did not practice cannibalism, but this is a rather speculative hypothesis.

Skulls found in the cave of El Mirador, in Atapuerk, with traces of manipulation

According to researchers, despite the fact thatcannibalism was considered something exceptional, today there is more and more evidence that cannibalism was much more common. The authors believe that such practices are a kind of way of understanding death and are usually associated with strong emotional experiences. The official press release of the study said that in the past some societies believed that human skulls had power or vitality, and sometimes they were collected as evidence of superiority and authority in violent clashes. Nevertheless, there are still many questions regarding these findings.

One of the greatest fears is being eaten.

In the course of the study, scientists were able to determine thatthe marks found in certain areas of the skulls have a certain similarity. These are stretch marks applied with stone tools. This type of intensive manipulation is found in all relatively recent places where Homo sapiens lived. One way or another, skull manipulation and cannibalism are not exceptional cases in Western Europe. In the past, similar remains were discovered among some Indian peoples, where eating the bodies of enemies is an ancient custom, which, incidentally, is found in human societies around the world.

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It turns out, cannibalism is an act that terrifiesus - survived millennia and is still found in some societies on our planet. Probably, he is a certain attempt to “defeat death” or to obtain the qualities that the deceased possessed. The idea that by eating the enemy’s heart you will receive his courage and strength is nothing more than a testament to the magical thinking inherent in our species. In general, cannibalism is a very difficult topic for anthropologists, historians and archaeologists, so new research is required to draw accurate conclusions about the reasons for its existence.