HERE BE CANNIBALS

INTRODUCTION TO THE ARCHIVE


One of the Spaniards' first experiences was the offer of a man's leg in sign of friendship, and their rejection of it with gestures of loathing was to the natives a declaration of hostility and a spurning of their proffered peace-offering.

 

A. I. Hopkins, In the Isles of King Solomon, Seeley Service, 1928. In Garry Hogg, Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice, p. 158



This archive consists of reports by missionaries, travellers and others of cannibalism world-wide. Here cannibalism is taken to mean the routine consumption of human flesh, not the antics of deranged murderers or desperate stranded travellers.

Part of the problem of documenting this topic is that the reports appear in many different places. A major source of this material is Garry Hogg: Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice (Robert Hale & Co., 1958), because fortunately Hogg undertook the task of collecting many diverse reports into one book. This archive would probably not have been possible without his work.

There can be little doubt that it was the white man's extreme abhorrence of cannibalism which led to its demise. There can also be little doubt that these age-old practices still persist in remote regions.

SIMON SHEPPARD




The word barbecue has an interesting history. It comes from the Carib word barbricot. The Caribs – whence the word cannibal – used the barbricot, a grill made of green boughs, to prepare their cannibal feasts.

Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings, p. 132



The impression I received from personal intercourse was that the cannibals of the forest were infinitely more sympathetic than the people of the open country, where the trading instinct is inborn. The cannibals are not schemers, and they are not mean. In direct opposition to all natural conjectures, they are among the best types of men.

‘Do you people eat human bodies?’ I said one day, upon entering a native village, and pointed to a quantity of meat, spitted upon long skewers, being smoke-dried over numerous smouldering fires. ‘Io; yo te?’ was the instant reply – ‘Yes; don't you?’ And a few minutes later the chieftain of the village came forward with an offering which consisted of large and generous portions of flesh, only too obviously of human origin. He seemed genuinely disappointed when I refused.

Once in the great forest, when camping for the night with a party of Arab raiders and their native followers, we were compelled to change the position of our tent owing to the offensive smell of human flesh, which was being cooked on all sides of us. A native chief stated to me that the time occupied in devouring a human body varied according to whether the latter happened to be one of his enemies, when he would eat the body himself, or merely a slave, who would be divided between his followers...


A visit to one of these slave-depots revealed a condition of savagery and suffering beyond ordinary powers of description. It was no uncommon experience to witness upwards of a hundred captives, of both sexes and all ages, including infants in their mothers' arms, laying in groups; masses of utterly forlorn humanity, with eyes downcast in a stony stare, with bodies attenuated by starvation, and with skin of that dull grey hue which among coloured races is always indicative of physical disorder. The captives were exposed for sale with the sinister fate in view of being killed and eaten.

Proportionately, a greater number of men than women fall victims to cannibalism, the reason being that women who are still young are esteemed as being of greater value by reason of their utility in growing and cooking food.

Probably the most inhuman practice of all is to be met with among the tribes who deliberately hawk the victim piecemeal whilst still alive. Incredible as it may appear, captives are led from place to place in order that individuals may have the opportunity of indicating, by external marks on the body, the portion they desire to acquire. The distinguishing marks are generally made by means of coloured clay or strips of grass tied in a peculiar fashion. The astounding stoicism of the victims, who thus witness the bargaining for their limbs piecemeal, is only equalled by the callousness with which they walk forward to meet their fate.

Herbert Ward (artist and sculptor), A Voice from the Congo, Heinemann, 1910. In Garry Hogg, Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice, pp. 115-116




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