Ancient Brits were cannibals, scientists say
A human skull shows evidence of cut marks, indicating it was manipulated for use as a cup, scientists say.
February 17th, 2011
07:48 AM ET

Ancient Brits were cannibals, scientists say

Britons' fondness for a spot of tea is legendary. What isn't so well known is that their ancestors sipped their drinks from human skulls.

Scientists working at a site in Somerset, England, have found the first evidence of cannibalism in the British Isles, including the use of skulls for drinking cups, according to a study published Thursday by the Public Library of Science.

"New analyses of human remains from Gough's Cave demonstrate the skilled post-mortem manipulation of human bodies," write researchers Silvia M. Bello, Simon A. Parfitt and Chris B. Stringer with London's Natural History Museum and University College London.

They also found evidence - tool marks and prying damage - that human bodies were methodically butchered 14,000 years ago and bone marrow was removed for eating. The bodies' craniums were carefully separated from the jaw and facial bones and the edges were smoothed out for usefulness and comfort, they wrote.

"This shows us the complexity of human behavior in ancient Britain. ... They treated their dead in many different ways," Stringer told The Australian. "It seems gruesome to us, but there are people in Asia today who aren't even meat eaters, who treasure human skulls and use them as drinking bowls."

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Filed under: Science • United Kingdom
soundoff (245 Responses)
  1. Anchorite

    Every group of humans on Earth has had cannibalism in their history, including American Indians, and it is almost never the result of a food shortage. Eating other humans is extremely unhealthy and a good way to get lots of diseases, not something everyone in a stable society can do regularly. It is almost always connected to some spiritual event, such as the killing of an enemy and symbolic devouring of his power, or the killing of someone believed to be a witch who is cursing the community through their actions or presence.

    February 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rock

    Snooki was from The Island originally and I was eating her

    February 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ren

    mmmm squishy peas

    February 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lance corporal

    the sad part is that no matter what meat they use the brits still can't cook.......

    February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. raven

    I watched a show about this on the science channel . For those asking how does anyone know they were cannibals : some of the skeletons (they found over 500) had cut marks indicating butchering and the long bones (femurs)were cracked open in such a way that the only purpose would be is harvest of marrow .

    February 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Glem Pashni

    This article is repulsive to God.

    CNN, you sin.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    @raven...really? 500 skeletons? Would you post them @ my facebook? I'm 'Philip Douglas' ( the one diving under the Colorado Flag) And that's Philip with one "L". I'd love to see what you did see. And how ya doin'? Good to see you again. (smile)

    February 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Supermanisdead

    Bloody Vikings! You can't have egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. hab

    Oh, that's why they blamed all others as cannibals in their civilizing ventures for the last five centuries! Still, though not keen on human flesh, as a colonisational habit, they eat flesh and sweat of other nations indirectly along with BIG BROTHER.

    February 19, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dea

    We report on this like we've 'arrived', yet CNN-CIA herself is often the first on the scene of today's 'cannibalism-equivalents.' (May ACooper & all his Cairo-cohorts be on the mend nicely.) Hope that wasn't Dr. Ron Paul's doppleganger haunting you over there, for your dastardly ignorant treatment of him in '07-08. ... If we don't start listening to him, & a few of his wisest backers, many millions of us will be looking out for their own skulls, ... right here in America!

    Wonder if we'll ever look back amazed that peeps once actually grabbed a bogus livelihood out of wars, & reporting on (& thus propagating) bogus wars; ... & being generally all insanely fascinated & gobbled up in being 'owned' by the deadly patho-religio/politic 'ruling class' that produces all man's most cro-magnon, sub-human behaviors everywhere?

    Yep, ... one day people might look back and be amazed that there once was permitted a propaganda over humans. Their conversation with their contemporaries might go something like, ... "We believe the 'elephant in the room awoke' in quick succession with the post-CNN/CIA period when we were no longer stimulated by reading about drinking from each other's skulls, or reading anything about what any other force/threat sociopaths once did up to 2012."

    Love of life to us all.

    February 20, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kafros Toumpekman

    what about modern british?

    March 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kafros Toumpekman

    just wondering what's inside burger king snacks and why british ppl were responsible for so many genocides, but nobody seems to know global history here... nevermind... keep eating, watching tv and consider yourselves civilized... 🙂

    March 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
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