Associated Press/Gerald Herbert – In this May 23, 2013 photo, a page of out of the diary of 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Thomas Jones featuring a photo of his high school sweetheart, Laura Mae Davis Burlingame, is on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Behind is a Marine uniform like one Jones, who died in the bloody assault on a Japanese-held island during World War II, would have worn. Before Jones died, he wrote what he called his “last life request” to anyone who might find his diary: Please give it to Laura Mae Davis, the girl he loved. Laura Mae Davis Burlingame _ she married an Army Air Corps man in 1945 _ had given the diary to Jones, and didn’t know it had survived him until visiting the museum on April 24. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
This photo provided by the National WWII Museum shows a photo of 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Thomas “Cotton” Jones, who died in the bloody assault on a Japanese-held island during World War II. Before Jones died, he wrote what he called his “last life request” to anyone who might find his diary: Please give it to Laura Mae Davis, the girl he loved. Laura Mae Davis Burlingame _ she married an Army Air Corps man in 1945 _ had given the diary to Jones, and didn’t know it had survived him until visiting the museum on April 24. (AP Photo/National WWII Museum)
In this Thursday, May 23, 2013 photo, Laura Mae Davis Burlingame, 90, holds a photo of herself from high school, in her Moorseville, Ind. home. The photo filled the back cover of a diary she had given to a Marine Cpl. Thomas “Cotton” Jones, a 22-year-old machine gunner, who died in the bloody assault on a Japanese-held island during World War II. Burlingame didn’t know the military diary she gave Jones had survived him. She saw it and read, “If this Diary is lost and if it is Possible please return it to Miss Laura Mae Davis. Address. Winslow Indiana.” (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
In this Jan. 8, 2013 photo, World War Memorial Stadium is shown in Greensboro, N.C. Greensboro residents have been grappling with what to do with the city’s decaying tribute to the soldiers of World War I. The Greensboro World War Memorial Stadium hosted minor league baseball for decades and even served as a location for notable sports films such as “Leatherheads” and “Bull Durham.” Yet, despite continued use by kids and college-level athletes, the structure is falling into disrepair. (AP Photo/News & Record, Scott Hoffmann)
This May 23, 2013 photo shows the gate to the Waikiki Natatorium in Honolulu. A few glance curiously at the crumbling Waikiki Natatorium, a salt water pool built in 1927 as a memorial to the 10,000 soldiers from Hawaii who served in World War I. But the monument’s gray walls are caked with salt and rust, and passersby are quickly diverted by the lure of sand and waves. The faded structure has been closed to the public since 1979, the object of seemingly endless debate over whether it should be demolished or restored to its former glory. (AP Photo/Anita Hofschneider)
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(CNN) — The winter of 1609 to 1610 was treacherous for early American settlers. Some 240 of the 300 colonists at Jamestown, in Virginia, died during this period, called the “Starving Time,” when they were under siege and had no way to get food.
Desperate times led to desperate measures. New evidence suggests that includes eating the flesh of fellow colonists who had already died.
Archaeologists revealed Wednesday their analysis of 17th century skeletal remains suggesting that settlers practiced cannibalism to survive.
Researchers unearthed an incomplete human skull and tibia (shin bone) in 2012 that contain several features suggesting that this particular person had been cannibalized. The remains come from a 14-year-old girl of English origin, whom historians are calling “Jane.”
There are about half a dozen accounts that mention cannibalistic behaviors at that time, although the record is limited, said Douglas Owsley, division head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of National History.
The newly analyzed remains support these accounts, providing the first forensic evidence of cannibalism in the American colonies.
What we know from the bones
Jane’s remains were found in a 17th-century trash deposit at the former site of James Fort. William Kelso, chief archaeologist at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project said at a briefing Wednesday that the fort was built in 1607, but has been washed away. Kelso and colleagues began digging in 1994 and have been excavating the site on Jamestown Island ever since.
Owsley and colleagues can tell quite a bit about what happened to Jane when at least one starving settler in the fort apparently tried to feed off of her.
If it’s any consolation, it appears that she was already dead at the time.
Researchers say it looks like someone had tried, but failed to open the skull with four shallow chops to the forehead.
The back of the skull contains markings that could have been made by a small hatchet or cleaver striking it. The cranium cracked open from the last hit. Forensic experts say it appears the person striking the skull was right-handed.
The skull’s mandible contains cuts all over it and inside, which experts say reflect an attempt to take tissue off of the face and throat with a tool such as a knife. The cheek area reflects a “sawing action” of a tool going back and forth, Owsley said. There are also sharp passages of a knife.
At some point in the process, the head was removed, Owsley said.
The damage done to these remains indicates that whoever inflicted it was not a skilled butcher, he said.
“Instead, what we see is hesitancy, trial, tentativeness and an absolute total lack of experience.”
The shin bone that archaeologists recovered also appeared to have been chopped, but in a way that more resembles classic butchering techniques, Owsley said.
“The person doing this was clearly interested in, based on what would have been accepted cuisine in the 17th century, in cheek meat, muscles of the face — that area — and tongue, and also in terms of 17th century traditional cuts, would also include the brain,” he said.
It is possible that more than one person was involved in this, given the disparity in butchering practices seen in the head compared to the shin bone.
What we know about the colonists
In the summer of 1609, the settlers experienced two significant setbacks, said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at Colonial Williamsburg.
The first was that a large fleet bringing supplies and settlers to Virginia was scattered. It had been carrying 500 settlers from Plymouth along with provisions.
“The fleet represented a new beginning for Jamestown, which had struggled over the previous two years,” Horn said.
A hurricane scattered the ships a week before they were supposed to arrive. The flagship with the leaders of this pack ended up in Bermuda. Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” takes its inspiration from this event.
Six ships reached Jamestown in August 1609, with spoiled or depleted food, and many settlers in poor health. “On one of those ships was Jane,” Horn said.
At the same time, the relationship between the Jamestown colonists and the native Powhatan Indians had broken down. The existing settlers were already experiencing disease and a shortage of food, and the demands they made on the Powhatans strained their relations.
That was the environment into which 300 additional settlers arrived at the James Fort.
One of the leaders of the group, Captain John Smith — the same one who was famously friends with Pocahontas — returned to England in October 1609 because he was injured, Owsley said, leaving a leadership vacuum.
In the fall, the Powhatans waged war against these colonists, and launched a siege against the fort.
With no way to get food from the outside, the colonists resorted to eating horses, dogs, cats, rats, mice and snakes, Horn said, according to the accounts of George Percy, who was the president of Jamestown during this time. There are even accounts of people eating their shoes and any other leather that could be found. Anyone who left to try to scrounge for roots in the woods was killed by the Powhatans.
Percy wrote, according to the Smithsonian, “thatt notheinge was Spared to mainteyne Lyfe and to doe those things which seame incredible, as to digge upp deade corpes outt of graves and to eate them. And some have Licked upp the Bloode which hathe fallen from their weake fellowes.” In other words, cannibalism.
It’s not clear how many deceased colonists were cannibalized. Only 60 of 300 of the original colonists survived, described as “looking like skeletons,” Horn said.
In May of 1610, the settlers finally arrived who had been shipwrecked in Bermuda, effectively saving the colony. Lord Delaware brought even more colonists and enough provisions to last a year.
There are still more pits at the fort to be excavated, and only 10% of Jane’s body has been recovered, Owsley said.
“I think there’s going to be other examples,” Owsley said. “Whether that will be found — with archeology you never know what’s going to be under the next shovel.”
A special exhibition will begin at the Smithsonian about Jamestown and Jane’s story on Friday.
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Less than two months after British forces captured Savannah in December 1778, patriot militiamen scored a rare Revolutionary War victory in Georgia after a short but violent gun battle forced British loyalists to abandon a small fort built on a frontiersman’s cattle farm.
More than 234 years later, archaeologists say they’ve pinpointed the location of Carr’s Fort in northeastern Georgia after a search with metal detectors covering more than 4 square miles turned up musket balls and rifle parts as well as horse shoes and old frying pans.
The February 1779 shootout at Carr’s Fort turned back men sent to Wilkes County to recruit colonists loyal to the British army. It was also a prelude to the more prominent battle of Kettle Creek, where the same patriot fighters who attacked the fort went on to ambush and decimate an advancing British force of roughly 800 men.
The battles were a blow to British plans to make gains in Georgia, the last of the original 13 colonies, and other Southern settlements by bolstering their ranks with colonists sympathetic to the crown.
“The war was going badly up north for the British, so they decided to have a southern campaign and shipped a huge amount of troops down here and started recruiting loyal followers,” said Dan Elliott, the Georgia-based archaeologist who found the fort with a team from the nonprofit research group, the LAMAR Institute. “Kettle Creek was probably the best victory that the Georgians ever had in the Revolutionary War. Most battles were failures like the capture of Savannah.”
Carr’s Fort, midway between Athens and Augusta, was one of numerous small outposts on the colonial frontier built for American settlers to defend themselves against enemy soldiers and hostile Indians.
Robert Carr was a cattle farmer who settled with his wife, children and a single middle-aged female slave in Wilkes County after colonists started arriving there in 1773. Carr also served as captain of a militia company of roughly 100 men. Responsible for leading his militiamen and looking out for their families, Carr built a stockade wall to protect his farmhouse and surrounding property, which included shacks and crude shelters.
Though probably no larger in area than a tennis court, Carr’s Fort would have needed to hold 300 or more people, said Robert Scott Davis, a history professor at Wallace State Community College in Alabama who has studied and written about Wilkes County’s role in the American Revolution since the 1970s.
“Most of the forts on the frontier were small community affairs,” Davis said. “Everybody in the militia company took refuge inside the fort when the community was in danger because either the British were coming or the Indians were coming.”
In February 1779, about 80 British loyalists marched into Carr’s Fort and took control, presumably while Carr and other patriot militiamen were away. Patriots responded quickly by sending 200 men from Georgia and South Carolina to retake the fort. Davis said the Feb. 10 gun battle was short, with most of the shooting likely over within 20 minutes, but it left more than a dozen fighters dead or wounded on each side. Patriots gained the upper floor of a nearby building and fired down into the fort. Innocent bystanders — women, children and old men inside the stockade walls — had to huddle under cover during the firefight.
The patriots seized their foes’ horses left saddled with supplies outside the walls, forcing the group to abandon the fort and return to the British army. Still, the outcome wasn’t exactly a decisive victory. Commanders of the patriot militiamen ordered them to break off the siege and focus on a new target: a larger fighting party of about 800 British loyalist fighters marching from the Carolinas.
Four days later, the patriots ambushed the approaching group at nearby Kettle Creek in an attack that brought heavy casualties to both sides and left the British sympathizers with fewer than 300 men.
Unlike many of the larger battles of the American Revolution, the fighting at Carr’s Fort was a skirmish between neighbors — possibly even family members — who found themselves on opposing sides of the war. And the fighting often had little to do with whether the American colonists should have freedom from British rule, said David Crass, director of Georgia’s state Historic Preservation Division.
“Here, the clashes were often small in scale and often were as much about settling scores between families or ethnic groups as they were about independence,” Crass said. “Carr’s Fort is a good representative of one of these smaller battles where many of the combatants likely knew each other.”
Surviving records from the Revolution gave general landmarks but no precise location for Carr’s Fort. Elliott last year won a $68,500 grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefields Protection Program to attempt to find the fort’s remains.
Elliott set out with a six-person team in January scouring an area of more than 4 square miles, which was believed most likely to have included Carr’s land. The search turned up no signs of the battle until a month later, when Elliott’s team started finding musket balls on a remote plot of planted pine. A dozen of the old bullets were recovered, as well as parts of 18th century hunting rifles favored by militiamen. Other artifacts uncovered within a few inches of the surface included buttons, horseshoes, door hinges and wagon parts. A colonial coin believed to a King George half-penny from the 1770s also was discovered.
Elliott said his team returned in March and April to make sure of their findings before announcing them last week. Though he’s still searching for any remaining signs of the fort’s stockade walls, he said the battle site was essentially pinpointed through the process of elimination. No other remnants of fighting were found in the surrounding 2,700 acres.
The artifacts from Carr’s fort are being cleaned and eventually will be turned over to the University of Georgia, Elliott said.
Meanwhile, one big question remains: Where was Capt. Robert Carr during the fighting at the fort that bears his name?
Davis said Carr’s name appears on a muster roll from January 1779, a month before the battle. The next time Carr’s name next turned up weeks after the fort shootout, when his family reported that Carr was killed in a raid by Creek Indians. But there’s no mention of Carr in the writings of men who fought at the fort.
“They talk about Carr’s Fort, but nobody said, ‘I was serving under Capt. Carr.’ There’s just not one word,” Davis said. “That is the greatest single mystery in all of this.”
In this May 2, 2013 photo provided by the LAMAR Institute, archaeologist Dan Elliott holds a piece of a decorative brass recovered during the search for a small frontier fort that was the sight of a gun battle during the Revolutionary War, in Wilkes County, Ga. Elliott says his team from the nonprofit LAMAR Institute found the location of Carr’s Fort in February after a month of searching and confirmed their discovery with return trips in March and April. (AP Photo/LAMAR Institute, Rita Elliott)
In this Feb. 17, 2013 photo provided by the LAMAR Institute, archaeologists from the nonprofit LAMAR Institute use metal detectors to search for artifacts from a small Revolutionary War fort in Wilkes County in northeast Georgia. Dan Elliott, the team’s leader, says the group found a dozen musket balls and rifle parts that revealed the location of Carr’s Fort, a small frontier outpost where patriot militiamen drove out British loyalists during a gun battle in February 1779. Elliott says his team from the nonprofit LAMAR Institute found the location of Carr’s Fort in February after a month of searching and confirmed their discovery with return trips in March and April. (AP Photo/LAMAR Institute, Rita Elliott)