Ancient Druids and Cannibalism; Is the Thigh Bone Connected to the Ritual Human Consumption Bone?

Josh Clark

Anybody familiar with me can tell you that I love me some cannibalism. I'm fascinated by the concept of eating another person and the psychological fortitude that consumption must entail.

I'm also intrigued by the possibility that cannibalism ever existed in ritual form; that the idea that Amazonian or New Guinean tribes feasting on hapless missionaries bound by rope and dropped in a huge metal kettle over a fire is as patently ridiculous as the cartoon portrayal of cannibals with bones through their noses.

Back in 1980, anthropologist William Arens made waves in the academic community when he suggested in his book, "The Man-Eating Myth," that all accounts of ritual cannibalism were fabrications by outsiders who sought to subjugate a foreign culture. (What better way to make a culture appear less than human?) Arens' position is that unless a credible source like an anthropologist witnesses the process of ritualized cannibalism -- from murder to consumption -- there's always a chance the that reported cannibalism is simple propaganda.

Which is why turn of the first millennium Roman accounts of Druids -- the high priest sect of the ancient Celts -- practicing cannibalism to please their gods has long been taken as unfounded. The Romans themselves overran the Celts during the first century AD. Nat Geo reports that over recent years, however, evidence of cannibalism among the Celts appeared. Most notably is the pile of skeletons of about 150 people found in a cave in England from around 1,000 years ago. At least one of the thigh bones is butchered in a manner that would allow a person access to the marrow within.

Sound shaky? It, like almost all other evidence of ritual cannibalism, is circumstantial at best. This isn't to say that cannibalism hasn't taken place throughout human history in dire circumstances; but few cultures have been definitively shown to consume human flesh on a socially-prescribed basis.

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