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Would you eat someone?
If absolutely necessary to survive.
 50%  [ 1 ]
If custom permitted
 50%  [ 1 ]
For fun
 0%  [ 0 ]
Total Votes : 2

17959.  Wed Apr 20, 2005 6:35 am Reply with quote

Beth A. Conklin, an associate professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University, has written a book on Cannibalism, more specifically the Wari Tribe of Brazil, who eat the bodies of their dead relatives. The book is called “Consuming Grief”, which sounds suspiciously like a book whose title came before the content!

Anyway, here are two good sites about this tribe, the latter being an interview with the author herself:

Before about 1960, the Wari' ate defeated enemies (other warriors, and, in the 20th century, intruding Brazilian settlers and their hired gunmen).

The Wari' also ate relatives after death.

The general goal of Wari' funeral practices, was to erase reminders of the dead. The person's name was not spoken and his or her house was burned. During three days of mourning, the body decayed. As the mourning peaked, the dead person's in-laws cut up the body and cooked and ate portions of it.

"The Wari' are unusual because they practiced two distinct forms of cannibalism in warfare and funerals," Conklin says. "However, the two practices were very different and had very different meanings. Eating enemies was an intentional expression of anger and disdain for the enemy. But at funerals, when they consumed members of their own group who died naturally, it was done out of affection and respect for the dead person and as a way to help survivors cope with their grief."

"In the past, the idea of leaving the body of a loved one in the dirt and letting it rot was as repulsive to the Wari' as the idea of eating human flesh is to us," Conklin explains.

18003.  Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:07 am Reply with quote

Has there ever been a community of cannibals which just ate people for food rather than for ritual purposes?

18006.  Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:16 am Reply with quote

I would have said not, until I just came across this. Can’t vouch for the site’s authenticity, although the book it cites as a source does seem to exist.

The Cobeus, alone among the Vaupés, are real cannibals. They eat those of other tribes whom they kill in battle, and even make war for the express purpose of procuring human flesh for food. When they have amassed more than they can consume at once, they smoke-dry the flesh over the fire and thus preserve it for food for a long time. They burn their own dead, and drink the ashes in caxiri in the same way as the Tarianas and Tucanos.

Alfred Russel Wallace, Travels on the Amazon, Ward Lock, 1853

18009.  Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:24 am Reply with quote

Going by memory - I could check with FT if needed, as I think they've done some work on this - the accepted answer was "No" until quite recently, when it became "Maybe".

As recently as 30 December 1989, a letter in The Independent colour supp insisted that "Anthropology has produced not one piece of tangible evidence that cannibalism has ever been practised anywhere in the world except in cases of extreme hardship [...] the Dani believed it of their neighbouring tribes, the Victorian British of the Africans, the Conquistadors of the Caribbeans and Herodotus of the Britons."

Incidentally, in an article in The Sunday Telegraph 10 Nov 96, John Simpson (foreign correspondent) argued that Emperor Bokassa never committed cannibalism.

18010.  Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:34 am Reply with quote

I hope I don’t get kidnapped and eaten on the way home, cos the police will look at my PC and think I was into that kind of thing!

Remember that Arvind Meiwers guy from Germany? He claimed to have become much better at speaking English after his eating his victim, who apparently was fluent.

Compare this with one of the much touted reasons for “savage” cannibalism, who supposedly eat their vanquished foes in order to gain their strengths in battle.

Previously I would have been inclined to go along with MatC's theory, the "look at those in the village down the road, they're wierd I bet the eat people" mentality. And I think that this may well be the case in some instances, but there is too much evidence around (Beth A. Conklin’s study above is a case in point) that would stop me from dismissing the subject as only occurring “in times of hardship”.

18535.  Mon Apr 25, 2005 8:34 pm Reply with quote

I've just been watching a programme about Easter Island on the History channel, and the claim there is that the inhabitants resorted to cannibalism as a result of overpopulation and the diminution of natural resources. This seems to be confirmed elsewhere, as reported here:

" Every Easter Islander knows that his ancestors were kai-tangata, 'man-eaters'. Some make jokes about it, others take offense at any allusion to this custom which has become in their eyes barbarous and shameful. According to Father Roussel, cannibalism did not disappear until after the introduction of Christianity. Shortly before this, the natives are said to have eaten a number of men, including two Peruvian traders. Cannibal feasts were held in secluded spots, and women and children were rarely admitted. The natives told Father Zumbohm that the fingers and toes were the choicest morsels.

The captives destined to be eaten were shut up in huts in front of the sanctuaries. There they were kept until the moment when they were sacrificed to the gods.

The Easter Islanders' cannibalism was not exclusively a religious rite or the expression of an urge for revenge: it was also induced by a simple liking for human flesh that could impel a man to kill for no other reason than his desire for fresh meat. (Man was the only large mammal whose flesh was available) Women and children were the principal victims of these inveterate cannibals. The reprisals that followed such crimes were all the more violent because an act of cannibalism committed against the member of a family was a terrible insult to the whole family. As among the ancient Maoris, those who had taken part in the meal were entitled to show their teeth to the relatives of the victim and say, 'Your flesh has stuck between my teeth'. Such remarks were capable of rousing those to whom they were addressed to a murderous rage not very different from the Maly amok."

- Easter Island - A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific
Alfred Metraux, Oxford University Press, 1957


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