Modern archeological technology has provided us with grisly evidence that the early settlers in Jamestown Colony resorted to cannibalism in 1609. During a harsh winter, with no food or provisions, the colony was in a desperate state. The colony was founded in 1607 and out of 104 settlers, only 38 survived the first 9 months, with most dying of starvation or disease. There is evidence that some settlers may have died from arsenic and human waste in the water.
These English immigrants were not used to hard agricultural farming, arrived during a drought and were dependent on supplies brought in by subsequent ships and benevolent native Indians. By the winter of 1609, a supply ship was lost at sea and there was conflict with the Virginian Indian tribes. This put the settlers in a desperate condition where they ate all the horses and animals, vermin and snakes and even munched on leather.
There were reports of cannibalism by survivors, but never any hard evidence...until now. According to Smithsonian Magazine, archeologists have uncovered human remains of a 14 year old girl along with butchered bones of horses and dogs. Using CT scanning, isotope and microscopic analysis, and 3D reconstruction of the skull, scientists confirmed cut marks on the jaw, face and forehead of the skull and the shinbone showed clear cannibalism. "The person that was doing this was not experienced and did not know how to butcher an animal. Instead, we see hesitancy, trial, tentativeness and a total lack of experience."says Douglas Owsley, Smithsonian forensic archeologist.
These forensic archeologist also surmise the child arrived in 1609 on one of the resupply ships that came to the Colony. She was either a maidservant or the child of a gentleman, based on her high-protein diet. It appears that her brain, cheeks, tongue and leg muscles were eaten first and there was no evidence of murder.
The Colonists were just so hungry they had no choice but to eat the next closest thing, despite cultural taboos. It is surmised that this is not the only case and more evidence of cannibal behavior will be found as they excavate the fort.
Starvation is a strong motivator for doing anything to survive. Would you eat a fellow human (who died naturally) in order to survive?