Friday, May 3, 2013

Cannibalism at Jamestown Colony

One of my private students recommended this article.  When we were talking about it, he was surprised to learn that there really was a person named Pocahontas and that she helped to save the life of John Smith, the English leader of the Jamestown colony.

Pocahontas wearing English clothing, in England (painting)

Captain John Smith - whew! A man's man!

The colony was established in 1607 and the "starving time" occurred after John Smith went back to England temporarily. Without its leader, the colony was badly managed and the Native Americans (Indians) surrounded the colony and decided to starve the inhabitants of Jamestown to death.  They would not let the men out of the little fort (a wooden structure for defense) to hunt and the English settlers soon ran out of food.  As you can read, many inhabitants died and some people felt they had to eat the human flesh of those who had died.

Why did the Indians try to kill every English person in Jamestown?  The Indians faced a huge dilemma (a dilemma is a problem for which there is no easy solution).  On the one hand they did not want white Europeans living on their land and spreading colonies.  They knew that the Europeans were a threat to Indian survival (especially since many Indians had died from European diseases).

On the other hand, the Indians benefitted from trading with the European settlers.  They were able to obtain guns and other useful tools which they could use.  So they had to decide - should we allow the Europeans to stay and continue trading with them (and possibly be destroyed by them), or should we try to kill them and stop them from colonizing?

Ultimately, after John Smith left, the Indians decided to try to starve the Europeans to death.

Smith, however, came back to the colony and brought more settlers and more men who could hunt and fight to defend the colony. 

What was the story of Pocahontas?  She was the daughter of an Indian chief (leader), but she seemed to admire and want to participate in European culture.  Although she seemed to love John Smith (and saved his life once when her father wanted to kill him), Smith did not seem to love her.  Instead she married a man named John Rolfe, who took her to England.  Unfortunately, she died of a European disease in England at the age of 21.

The article:

Vocabulary -

a skeleton - this is made up of the bones inside of us which hold us together

to confirm something - to verify something; to establish that something is, in fact, true.  If you believe something, you might need some type of confirmation to know it is true.

cannibalism - when people eat the flesh of other (dead) people.

a chop - a person chops wood in order to cut the wood into smaller pieces.  They chopped at this dead girls head to try to get to the brains inside.

evidence - this is anything that provides a clue to something else.  Evidence helps you to draw a conclusion about something. 

hesitancy - if you are hesitant, you don't really want to do something.

a task - an action that has to be taken.

one cut split the skull - one cut broke the skull wide open

figuring it out - to figure something out means to learn how to do something.  It took awhile for these people to learn how to split skulls open to get to the brains inside (to eat them).

a physical anthropologist - someone who studies the way the human body has changed over millions of years.

butchering a cow - a butcher is someone who kills (slaughters) an animal and then cuts it up into smaller pieces that can be sold.

desperate - feeling hopeless, close to giving up

to resort to something - to do something that one doesn't really want to do.  Once a guy's arm was stuck under a large rock after some rocks fell from a mountain.  Nobody knew where he was, so he had to resort to cutting his arm off. 

it was never in much doubt - everyone basically knew this.

a half-dozen accounts -  a half dozen (6) people told stories about this. An account is a story.

corpses being exhumed - a corpse is a dead body.  To exhume a corpse means to dig the body out of the ground.

to be executed - this is when the state kills a criminal

foraging - to forage means to wander around and look for food.

a cellar full of debris - debris is broken stuff.  After a bomb destroys a building, the building will be filled with debris.

to shelter someone - to protect someone; to provide someone with a building for protection

telltale marks - marks that tell  what really happened.  The marks on the skull indicate that other people broke open the skull and ate the brains.

archeological and forensic - he has done research in the field of archeology and also for police departments (CSI stuff)

evidence / proof - proof is something that shows something really happened; evidence indicates something might have happened

sparingly - if a person does or says something sparingly, he doesn't do or say it much.

a maidservant - a maid. A woman who served others.

a casualty - someone harmed or injured.

unearthed - to dig something out of the earth is to unearth it.

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