Was Cannibalism Common in Ancient Times?

Cannibalism is a taboo subject that has been prevalent throughout history. The act of consuming human flesh is considered repulsive and inhumane in modern times.

However, was cannibalism common in ancient times? Let’s explore this topic further.

Types of Cannibalism

Before delving into the prevalence of cannibalism in ancient times, it’s important to understand the different types of cannibalism. There are two types: endocannibalism and exocannibalism.

Endocannibalism is the practice of consuming members of one’s own community or tribe. This type of cannibalism was prevalent in some ancient cultures as part of their religious rituals or as a way to honor their dead ancestors.

Exocannibalism, on the other hand, involves the consumption of individuals from other communities or tribes. This type of cannibalism was often associated with warfare or as a way to instill fear among enemies.

Prevalence in Ancient Times

The prevalence of cannibalism in ancient times is a topic that has been debated among historians and archaeologists for years. While there is evidence to suggest that some ancient cultures practiced endocannibalism, it’s difficult to determine how widespread this practice was.

One example of endocannibalism can be found among the Aztecs, who consumed the flesh of sacrificial victims as part of their religious rituals. Similarly, some tribes in Papua New Guinea practiced endocannibalism as a way to honor their dead ancestors.

Exocannibalism was also prevalent in some ancient societies. For instance, Herodotus, a Greek historian, wrote about the Scythians who consumed their enemies after defeating them in battle.

Reasons for Cannibalism

The reasons for cannibalism varied among different cultures and societies. In some cases, it was a religious practice, as mentioned earlier. In other cases, it was a way to survive during times of famine or war.

During the siege of Leningrad in World War II, for example, some residents resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Similarly, the Donner Party in the United States turned to cannibalism during their ill-fated journey westward.

The Taboo of Cannibalism

Despite its prevalence in ancient times and even in modern times, cannibalism remains taboo and repugnant to most people. The thought of consuming human flesh is considered morally wrong and is illegal in most countries around the world.

In conclusion, while cannibalism was prevalent in some ancient societies, it’s difficult to determine how widespread this practice was. The reasons for cannibalism varied among different cultures and societies and ranged from religious practices to survival during times of famine or war. Regardless of its prevalence in history, the taboo surrounding cannibalism remains strong today.