Of Scarcity and Plenty: Food for Thought

(Warning: This weeks post does discuss cannibalism in America. While I won't go into depth about it (I will have resources at the end if you wish to know more) this may be a topic to be viewed with parental caution.)

During this time of the year, especially this month of November, most of us are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. For most of us, celebrating Thanksgiving means gathering with family or friends over a meal. This meal often includes mashed potatoes, vegetables of some sort, a meat or meat substitute, all topped off with pie (usually pumpkin) for desert.


When we think back to the people who arrived on this land most of us think of the almost fairy tale, idyllic stories that some of us find in our history books. This is of course because history should be fun and tell only happy stories of people winning and overcoming many obstacles to live a happy and fulfilled life, right? Well maybe... It is true that history is written by the winning side which does sway the narrative. It is also true that some times things get glossed over or not told in full detail in pursuit of telling all the history in a small amount of time.

One of these periods of times that gets glossed over and often romanticized a bit is the colonization of this country in the 17th century. We like to hear and read the stories of success of these early colonies. The fun, happy stories such as the marriage of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, which ended the war between the colonists and the Powhattan natives (though that story has been romanticized as well :-/ ).


However, one of the stories that you probably will not find in a history textbook is the one that prompted the warning at the beginning of this post. It is the story of a girl named Jane. That unfortunately is not her real name, but the one that the archeologist who discovered her gave her. She was unfortunately one of the victims of the "starving time" during the winter of 1609 - 1610 at Jamestown. She likely succumbed to starvation, but that is not the only thing that makes her a victim.

"In 2012, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists working in a 1608 James Fort cellar discovered the mutilated skull and severed leg bone of an English teenage girl. She was found among butchered animal bones and other food remains discarded by the Jamestown colonists during the “Starving Time” winter of 1609–1610. A butchered horse and dogs were found in the same deposit, signs that they were discarded during a desperate winter that began with 300 settlers crowded inside James Fort and ended with only 60 emaciated survivors to greet an arriving ship the next spring." (1)


This starving time saw the colonist not only searching for food in other humans, but also in their horses, dogs and nearby wildlife such as turtles and water moccasin snakes. Food which most of us would rather not consider eating.


Many of us can remember back to the spring of this year where some feared that there would be a starving time of our own. Store shelves emptied and people were worried that there would be no more food. This means that some of the less fortunate in our country have struggled to have enough food. This especially hits close to home, the community where my in-laws live has a community food pantry, which due to the pandemic and local area churches not being able to host their usual Thanksgiving gathering programs. Because of this the food pantry has been struggling to help support all who need food. My dear Sister-in-law, as well as other students of my Aunt (who is her violin teacher) and a few other students and teachers are raising funds for the food pantry.


You can help to donate to this cause by going to her Go Fund Me page String Students Fill Needy Food Pantry.


With all this to say, while we may not be able to do much about those who starved in Jamestown, we can do something for those who are starving in our communities today.



Footnotes

(1) https://historicjamestowne.org/archaeology/jane/


Sources for more information:

https://historicjamestowne.org/archaeology/jane/

Videos:

Jamestown's 'Jane' Reflects Grim Reality of Early Settlers

Jane and The Early Women of Jamestown

Facial Reconstruction of Jane

Cannibalism At Jamestown: Listening To The Bones | TIME


I also highly recommend watching the Beyond Brideships series from Jamestown Rediscovery Education, there are three really well made episodes, they are named:

Episode 1 "Company Women and Kings' Daughters"

Episode 2 "No Obey"

Episode 3 "Picking Up the Pieces"

These episodes explain more about the women who came to Jamestown as brides as well as other similar shipments and other women of the time.


For much more appetizing historical information check out the channels of Townsends and/or Tasting History.