Whether it was part of a religious tradition or a method of survival when placed in no-win situations, cannibalism has occurred all over the world. From criminals to people marooned on an isolated island, cannibalism involves the act of eating human flesh and body parts. In this article, you will learn more about the practice that includes ancient Roman, victims of famine, and sea-stranded sailors.
In the past, cannibalism often served religious or cultural purposes. Over time, the practice has become outlawed across the world and the rare cases that have occurred in recent years are attributed to acts of desperation or the criminally insane. A collection of facts regarding cannibalism for you to mull over include:
Cannibalism is classified under two different categories: exocannibalism and endocannibalism. Exocannibalism means that an individual is eating someone who belongs to a different group. Consuming the flesh of a conquered nation is one example of this. Endocannibalism involves eating people who belong to the same group that you do, as seen in ceremonies centered on ritual burials.
Up until the 1960’s, a handful of tribes in Papua New Guinea practiced cannibalism as part of their rituals. As a result, many inhabitants contracted a disease called ‘kuru,’ which developed after eating human tissue. Some believe it is a form of ‘mad cow disease’ in humans.
Even fairytales are not immune to the concept of cannibalism, as seen in the infamous adventures of Hansel and Gretel.
In an attempt to keep the gods happy, the Aztecs had a tradition of cannibalizing thousands of people each year.
Reacting under a misconception regarding communion rite rituals, early Christians were killed by the Romans because they believed worshippers participated in cannibalism.
It was not uncommon for cannibals to believe that if they ate the flesh of another, they received the knowledge and skills of the victim.
Turning to cannibalism as a means to survive is often a result of famine sweeping over a community or country. Between 1073 and 1064, the Nile failed to flood and caused a great famine to strike Egypt. In 1315, Europe faced the ‘Great Famine.’ From 1958 to 1961, the failure of agricultural policies enacted by Mao Zedong caused a famine to attack the people of China. The above instances led to a collection of well-documented cases of cannibalism.
Unforeseen circumstances can cause people to consider cannibalism as a way to survive. For example, a Uruguayan rugby team became stranded in the Andes in 1972 when their plane crashed and left 15 people dead. The remaining passengers started to eat the flesh of the dead as a way to survive. Two months later, they were rescued.
Also known as autocannibalism or autosarcophagy, there is such a thing as self-cannibalism, which takes on many different forms. Some of the ways one can accomplish this act is:
- Biting their fingernails
- Eating their own hair, which can actually create a hairball in the stomach
- Drinking their own blood , often referred to as autovampirism