Jamestown, VA. The site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World established in 1607.

By the 1630s, the English Civil War had sent a number of royal supporters packing, and some went to Virginia to settle. In the early 1990s, historian and archeologist Bill Kelso knew that the site remained exactly where it was in 1607. Excavations at the site revealed many strange wonders.

A Possibly Cannibalized Skull

A skull and a severed leg bone buried in an early 17th-century kitchen cellar was discovered during a 2012 Jamestowne Rediscovery/Preservation Virginia archeological dig.

Visible cut marks as if to remove the flesh for consumption suggest cannibalistic activity.

But why would Jamestown’s upright settlers do such a thing?

It came from a terrible time during the earliest years of the colony. This “Starving Time” decreased the settlements population from 500 to 60 in less than a year.

Many succumbed to disease, but most of the settlers perished from hunger. Accounts from survivors and acquaintances state that the colonists resorted to cannibalism as a result.

This skull was nicknamed “Jane.”

Jamestowne archeologists and Smithsonian Institute scientists trace the remains to a 14-year-old female, though they aren’t sure if she was butchered to be consumed or if she died first and was then consumed.

According to letters written to the Virginia Company, the same corporation that created the Jamestown colony, the settlers ate whatever animal they found, before turning to recently buried corpses.

But one man among the colonists was said to have butchered and “powdered” (salted) his pregnant wife.

Some accounts provide the gruesome detail of how he cut their baby out of her and threw it into the James River. His stash of “wife meat” was eventually found, with only her head missing. Could this have been Jane?