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, 110 (2), 215-41

Fijian Cannibalism: Osteological Evidence From Navatu


Fijian Cannibalism: Osteological Evidence From Navatu

D Degusta. Am J Phys Anthropol.


The hypothesis that the human remains from the Navatu midden (50 BC to AD 1900) in Fiji represent cannibalized individuals was tested by an analysis of the skeletal remains. The site includes formal human burials and a separate, contemporaneous midden containing commingled fragmentary human and nonhuman bones. All remains were examined for a variety of modifications. The medium mammal and human remains in the midden have similar modifications: ancient breaks (92% of midden human specimens and 88% of medium mammal specimens), burning (29% and 11%), crushing (1% and 1%), cutmarks (9% and 8%), peeling (4% and 1%), and percussion pits (1% and 1%). The human burials (for which cannibalism had not been hypothesized) are essentially unmodified except for some breakage. The pattern of element representation and low incidence of animal bitemarks rules out carnivores and rodents as major modifiers of the assemblage. The breakage patterns, element representation, light weathering, and rarity of random striae indicate that sediment pressure, wave action, weathering, and trampling did not significantly alter the remains. The modifications of the midden human and nonhuman remains generally correspond in type and frequency. The evaluation of the assemblage's taphonomic history suggests that most of the modifications were caused by humans. The Navatu midden human sample does not resemble assemblages interpreted as secondary burials with defleshing, nor does it resemble violence-derived assemblages. The burials at Navatu and other Fijian sites indicate that the various noncannibalistic Fijian mortuary rituals do not mimic butchery and consumption. Therefore, the hypothesis of cannibalism at Navatu is supported.

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