JAMESTOWN, Va. (WAVY) - The 17th-century remains of a girl uncovered at Jamestown in 2012 have finally answered a long-standing question among historians. Was there cannibalism at the settlement?
During the winter of 1609-1610, 80 percent of colonists at Jamestown perished in a period known as "starving time." For centuries, historians have wondered if cannibalism occurred during the winter months as a means of survival.
In 2012, partial remains of a young girl believed to be 14-years-old at the time of her death were discovered as part of a 20-year excavation of James Fort. The incomplete skull and tibia were unusual due to extensive fragmentation and the location in which they were found. Chief archaeologist William Kelso with the Jamestown Rediscovery Project at Preservation Virginia approached the Douglas Owsley with the Smithsonian for a forensic analysis of the remains.
"Owsley and his research team identified a number of features on the skull and tibia that indicated the individual was cannibalized," the Smithsonian said. Evidence included four shallow chops to her forehead followed by a series of deep, forceful chops from a small hatchet or cleaver at the back of her head.
Owsley's findings showed the blows to the front of the girl's head were a failed attempt to open the skull. The final blow to the back split the skull open.
Because less than 10 percent of the girl's remains were located, scientists have not been able to determine the cause of her death. Smithsonian researchers were able to create a digital rendering of the complete skull, which the Medical Modeling company used to print a three-dimensional replica.
The replica was used by StudioEIS in Brooklyn to create a forensic facial reconstruction of what the girl, dubbed "Jane," might have looked like prior to her death .
The facial reconstruction will be on display at the National Museum of Natural History in the "Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th Century Chesapeake" exhibition beginning May 3. The skeletal remains will be on display in Jamestown near the discovery site on Jamestown Island.
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