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. W7RKD

    Brits = Orcs!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • clos

      LOL hahaha

      February 17, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      FOR THE HORDE!

      February 17, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. mike

    another article with an inaccurate and sensationalist headline.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. mystic

    maybe they just took the blood of Christ and the body thing a little to far, they say to much of anything isn't good for you this includes religion... -just a thought that may explains a lot they call their sausage "Bangers" maybe we just missed the idea with their teeth being what we thought were bad its for chewing...

    February 17, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Those crazy Catholics. Their evil goes all the way back to 12,000 BC.

      I'm hoping at least a couple of you have caught that.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • tracey

      took the blood of Christ thing too far?...12,000 years ago? I'm not even Christian but at least I know how to count.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ben

    SOYLENT GREEN!!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • UHhello

      IS PEOPLE!!!!

      February 17, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Sutler

      Can I get seconds please?

      February 17, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. mike

    who comes up with these conclusion? what if they were just mad scientist themselves studying the human body? what if they want to wear the skull as a cap? how the hell do they even know they were eaten?

    February 17, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Summer819

      How do they know they ate the bone marrow? Is there evidence of this in the belly of an ancient entombed Brit? Love that they find a couple of interesting finds and their imaginations take off. They come off like my 3 year old does. Don't get me wrong, she's a great storyteller, but I know to take her tales with a grain of salt. I feel the same with the "scientists" conclusions.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Sure, compare a 3 year olds tales to conclusions drawn from specialists in their fields, ok then, lol.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Daryn

      I love when a layperson decides they know more than a subject matter expert does based on their five seconds of thought on the topic as a forum-reading chair-potato; that a brief CNN report somehow brings their understanding to the same depth as the people who study and research this stuff professionally. That's an example of the reasoning ability of a child.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I think it's interesting how when there's a story like this about Brits (or other White Euros or their descendants), there is a noticeable percentage of people denying it ...

      I can almost guarantee that if this story were about any non-whites, there would be a tremendous volume of comments confirming that "of course" or "we knew all along" or "what would you expect" or something to this effect.

      Not saying anything about you guys here, but I'm just saying. I supposed everyone tries to protect their own. Good day, all.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Tony.. Yeah cause the worlds the so racist these days.. with a black president and all

      February 17, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      @Daryn...You are a comple tool, an internet Troll roaming the internet with a pretentious belief that you are not a, "layman". We are commenting on this retarded article of the research and not the research itself. I don't know who you think you are calling everyone who question the validity of this article a forum-potato, but only a fool would readily believe any scientist findings. I will put on the foil hat in the wind and you go ahead and pop that pill. Yea, they said it's safe.

      February 20, 2011 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. ned

    I wonder if they had High Skull time!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. Katie

    So what... Lions eat us, sharks eat us, why not?? It's only a cultural thing that prevents us from eating each other.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Wraith

      Hi Katie,

      Take a look here: http://askville.amazon.com/medical-side-effects-human-cannibalism/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=10668213

      While the chances of catching something are rarer than catching something else, the risk is most certainly there.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. whatuhwhy

    I always wondered what us humans taste like, chicken? Or more beefy...

    February 17, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. joem

    Yes, that was Europe and then a great light shone from the East. The light of the world.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      We call that the sun these days.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Philip

    @Mike...how do they know humans were eating each other? Well, we have hundreds of examples of dinosaurs dating back millions of years, where we have found physical evidence showing us what they were eating back then still in their stomachs. And since these ancient Briton cannibals lived just 14,000 years ago, no doubt skeletal remains found during this expedition show proof of cannibalism.

    February 17, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Summer819

      Unless and until they come out to say they've found evidence of human remains in the bellies of ancient Brits...I'm not exactly buying their conclusions.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Some Dude

      They have many examples of animal bones showing distinct markings of stone tools used to remove the meat and marrow from the bone. When they see the same markings on human bones, it points to cannibalism.

      These were people with very tight schedules. The phrase "Struggle to survive" was on every page of their day planner. They probably didn't have time for activities that did not directly contribute to their survival. The dead would either be left where they fell or quickly buried. Elaborate processes like stripping meat from the bone would not be done unless they had a reason. Like eating the meat.

      Granted it is very hard to prove such things, owing the the low quality of video cameras 14,000 years ago, but the evidence certain points in that direction.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Daryn

      "Unless and until they come out to say they've found evidence of human remains in the bellies of ancient Brits...I'm not exactly buying their conclusions."

      @Summer819> Did you seek out and read the research? If not, who cares what you think? You're a layman with no expertise on the matter, your opinion has no value, you thoughts have no impact on the science. If I have to choose between the findings of a researcher and the beliefs of a forum-potato, I'm pretty sure I know which team I will choose. Get your foil hat on tight, Summer819, it's windy out there.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Well...your senior ranked secret society members regularly drink wine from skulls in high level ceremonies. Take a look at the Harvard Skull and Bones, The Masons, and Templars....these ceremonies are old in nature....and most can have their existences traced back through the British Isles – if not their origins. Death is highly regarded in most Pagan religions as a part of the cycle of life, not the end...so why would they not incorporate human remains in ceremonies to represent this aspect when social culture did not prohibit it?

      February 17, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      @Some Dude The same can be said about the tools they use which must be multipurpose. Surely, they don't have the resources or a Hardware store where they can buy different tools to strip meat or cut wood. Just because they have the same markings doesn't mean you can automatically implied cannibalism. Of course, no one is disgarded that it's a possibility; however, the article makes it sound like it's absolute truth.

      @Daryn...You are a comple tool, an internet Troll roaming the internet with a pretentious belief that you are not a, "layman". We are commenting on this retarded article of the research and not the research itself. I don't know who you think you are calling everyone who question the validity of this article a forum-potato, but only a fool would readily believe any scientist findings. I will put on the foil hat in the wind and you go ahead and pop that pill. Yea, they said it's safe.

      February 20, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. Andrew

    Pfft you think that's gnarly? I've got a brand new house on the roadside, made out of rattlesnake hide, and I got a brand new chimney made on top, made out of a human skull. Now, come on take a little walk with me Arlene and tell me who do you love?

    February 17, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Killian

      @Andrew; your post looks like a case of misunderstood lyrics.. Or am I wrong? And who the heII is Arlene?

      February 17, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Killian

      Oohh, Bo's original lyrics... my bad, Andrew.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. Steve

    Turns out Stone Henge was actually the first drive through burger joint...

    February 17, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. LoYo

    Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?

    February 17, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • TracePace

      Good one!! 🙂

      February 17, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. wizecrack

    @BEN:

    Catholicism was not until 4BC not 12,000 BC, you numbskull.

    Wish it was your skull that was cracked open you dim wit

    February 17, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      I guess reading comprehension is beyond you.

      I was clearly making reference to mystic's comment about the blood of Christ. That's why I made sure to emphasize the 12,000 BC.

      Take a second to recognize and understand the depth of your ignorance...now go ahead and crack your own skull open before you pollute the gene pool.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Casual Observer

      you do not know the difference between Christianity and Catholicism. Catholicism did not start in 4 BC – Christ had not been born yet Formal Christianity did not happen until the 4th century. Catholicism morphed out of that over the next 100 years or so.
      You must be long to a very interesting church – The Church of the Dazed and Confused

      February 17, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • KH

      sooo Catholicism started 4 years before the birth of Christ? um. okay.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Casual Observer –

      You beat me to it. I was going to look up the actual recorded beginning of Catholicism.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Jo Ann Shepherd

      ROFLMAO!

      February 17, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. WhiteCannibalGuy

    I love eating other white people!

    February 17, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
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