How Columbus Invented Cannibals

How Columbus Invented Cannibals


When I say “cannibals” the image that
comes to your mind probably isn’t a group of white European settlers. Maybe it’s because most images feature groups
of darker skinned natives, deep in the wilderness, and if you’ve watched too many cartoons, they’re
probably dancing around a boiling pot. But what you might not expect is that the
myth of the “savage cannibal” played a crucial role in the colonization of the Americas
and was repeated for centuries as a justification for genocide and slavery. And who started this fear of rampant cannibalism? Christopher Columbus Now, I just laid out a pretty big claim that
the myth of cannibals had a major impact on the colonization of the New World. But is that actually true? Well, the first and most obvious part of this
question seems to be: does cannibalism actually exist as a practice? Here’s a quick review: In his book Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural
History Bill Schutt notes that there are second hand and anecdotal accounts from scholars
that report instances of cannibalism around the world as a part of various rituals and
customs, such as funeral rites. In his book Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural
History Bill Schutt notes that there are second hand and anecdotal accounts from scholars
that report instances of cannibalism around the world as a part of various rituals and
customs, such as funeral rites. And Archeologists think that prehistoric humans
were eating people to meet protein demands and to kill off their enemies. But as a source of nutrition, cannibalism
isn’t that efficient. Researchers estimate that while animals such
as beavers and boars average 1,800 calories per pound of muscle, humans only carry about
650 calories per pound of muscle. Think of it as the difference between eating
a double bacon cheeseburger with fries and a drink, vs. getting just the burger in a
sad lettuce wrap. On top of that, humans are pretty tricky to
catch, making us difficult to hunt unless we’re already weak or sick. So while human meat may be one of the original
components of the paleo diet, it just isn’t that filling. And like most of the Paleo food I see on Instagram,
“diseased human meat” sounds gross. Okay, so we’ve established that instances
of people eating people are comparatively rare as a dietary measure, which indicates
that cannibalism is probably more myth than day to day reality. But what does Christopher Columbus have to
do with any of this? When he first, accidentally landed in the
Caribbean in 1492, Columbus arrived and met the friendly Arawaks. They promptly said that their enemies the
Caribs were man-eaters. Now this is the first recorded meeting of
these two groups, so the accuracy of the translations (on both sides) is a pretty important question
to keep in mind. He writes in his journal on November 4th,
1492 that he’s been told that “a long distance from here there are men with one
eye, and others with dog snouts who eat men” Later on November 23rd, 1492 he first wrote
the word “cannibals” in his journal as another term for the supposedly dog snouted
Carib people. Now based on what he wrote in his journals,
at first Columbus wasn’t sure if he should believe the Arawaks or not. However he eventually became convinced because
he met what he described as a “really scary, unattractive Carib” whose tribesmen attacked
his sailors over a trading argument. He then decided, quote “without doubt, the
people here are evil, they are from the island of Carib, and they eat men.” All this…without seeing them eat…men. Oh and he thought they were hoarding lots
of precious metals. Important note. On his way back to Spain in 1493 he wrote
a letter (which was the status update of its day). He said, “Thus I have found no monsters,
nor had a report of any, except in an island Carib…which is inhabited by people .. . who
eat human flesh.”This letter was published across Europe and was basically the 15th century
equivalent of a viral meme, short on facts and big on flash. In 1494 Columbus went back to the Caribbean,
and this time he was cannibal crazy. In his journals he claims that the islands
that were most populous were filled with cannibals. So, he decided that for the “good of the
souls of said cannibals, the greater number that are sent over to Spain, the better.” And by sending over to Spain, he means, enslaving
them and selling them, in Spain. For money. So he did that. Convenient, because he wasn’t finding much
gold, and he needed to recoup a lot of money for his investors. Especially since for his second voyage they
gave him 17 ships! He took 500 native people back to Europe to
sell as slaves. 200 died on the ride over. But, Spanish Queen Isabella wasn’t super
keen on slaves and sent some of the natives back. Unlike Columbus, Isabella found stealing people
and selling them as slaves a bit “unchristian”. But within ten years she changed her tune,
all thanks to you guessed it: “Cannibal.” In 1503 she decreed that all native inhabitants
of the newly colonized territories should be “protected from capture or injury, except
for a certain people who are called cannibals…they may be captured and.. be sold”. For money A few years later.. Pope Innocent IV got in on the Cannibal craze
and supported Isabella’s decree, stating that Christians were able to punish cannibalism
through brute force. Which is a little ironic, considering the
Catholic church believed in transubstantiation at the time, which is the idea that people
were literally eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood during communion. So what do we get when we add this all up? Well it looks like Cannibals are real, but
in this case European explorers may have invented them to their serve own purposes. Colonial adventurers were grappling with how
to deal with native populations. Their base instincts were to dehumanize them
to justify forced labor, enslavement, or slaughter. But their professed “Christian values” of
how all “humans” should be treated denied a clear moral justification for atrocity. So it doesn’t really look like a coincidence
that around the time Columbus was calling indigenous Americans cannibals, Queen Isabella
and the Pope came up with the equation that cannibals weren’t human, and therefore could
be enslaved . . . For Money. That’s up for discussion…but not much
discussion. And while no historical argument is ever 100%
It seems like cannibalism may have been a pretty convenient justification so everyone
could keep making money from slavery. Especially, when you consider modern archeological
evidence has found little to nothing to support his claims of Cannibalism in the Caribbean. Now, there is a certain amount of irony here. Remember at the very beginning of the episode
when we said, when you think of Cannibals it’s probably not “white European settlers?” Well it turns out a lot of colonists got pretty
desperate. Recent evidence has surfaced that the Jamestown
colonists in Virginia resorted to cannibalism in 1609 In 1838, crew members of the whaling ship
Essex that sailed from Nantucket Massachusetts murdered other crew members for food. Additionally the Donner Party resorted to
eating each other during their ill-fated trip to “settle” the Western portion of what
is now the United States. So although cannibalism was often cited as
the reason for the need to “civilize” and “colonize” other populations, colonization
itself often led to real, verified instances of cannibalism. So what do you think? Do you think “cannibals” were an important
part of early colonization? Got any evidence that might suggest otherwise? Let us know in the comments and if you liked
what you just watched please subscribe! Because we’ll be back next week with a brand
new episode. Thanks for all your brain tickling questions
from last week on the origins of hashtags! Here’s what some of you had to say: Tia M. Mohacsi on the Origin of Everything
Facebook page pointed out three other uses of the hash sign/pound sign: the number sign,
the musical sharp, and the tic-tac-toe board. And understanding these were the most popular
question. I’ll start with the number sign: it seems
that the use of the hash mark to show number is closely aligned with the pound sign. Since the “lb” morphed into the pound
sign and was already in use for measuring weight by the time it was standardized in
the 19th century, book keepers began using that same symbol for noting the amount of
an object. Hence the number sign and pound sign seem
to have a similar trajectory. Moving on to the musical sharp: so from what
I can find about the history of standardizing musical notation, seems like there were several
stages before we reached the sharp. Musical notation began to be standardized
around the 13th century so that symbols began to show notes, musical pitches, and rhythm. The sharp sign emerged to mean higher in pitch. Also the sharp sign is supposed to be different
than the hash because it’s slanted left to right and most keyboards slant the number/hash
sign from right to left. But if we have any music notation buffs out
there who have a longer answer for this drop it below and I’ll share it! And finally tic-tac-toe: weirdly enough this
game also came from the Ancient Romans, and the Ancient Egyptians. Examples of the game have been found sketched
into many ruins. It was called “noughts and crosses” in
the 1860s before becoming tic-tac-toe in the US in the 20th century. In 1952 British Professor Sandy Douglas made
a version of the game for the EDSAC computer called “OXO” so many consider it be the
world’s first video game. I’ll drop a link with the rough history
of tic-tac-toe down below.

100 thoughts on “How Columbus Invented Cannibals”

  1. I enjoyed this video. However, Pope Innocent IV died in 1254, clearly much too early for Columbus (unless you took some very "poetic license"). You mention Queen Isabella giving the OK in 1503 and then say "later" the Pope did. Unusually, there were 3 Popes in 1503, but perhaps you meant the last one, Pope Julius II, who was Pope from November 1503 until 1513. I was going to share your video, until you mentioned Innocent IV. I knew that wasn't right. I have to FACT CHECK everything before I post these days because I have called out so many people on FAKE NEWS, they are just waiting for me to post something that is demonstrably, factually incorrect. If you need a good fact checker, I have qualifications I could send you.

  2. The Catholic Church thing is a metaphor we believe it is the body and blood of Christ but it is actually wine and a communion wafer. Many people rejected Jesus' teaching because they actually thought Jesus was a madman (cannibal) but Jesus spoke metaphorically.

  3. I think its a bit misleading to answer the question, "Does cannibalism exist?" with "Rare as a dietary measure". The fact that there were actually existing practices where tribesmen eat their enemies, may it be just the heart or liver or rarely flesh is enough to say, Yes.

  4. Also technically it was the Arawaks who started it? It's a fancily still one thing was "Proven" so he assumed both were true. As a side note while Columbus isn't a saint the English purposely chose the WORST translations for his notes and such to make the Spanish look awful. Knowing Better has a great video on him.

  5. I lived with descendants of the Carib tribe in the 1970s. By this time they had interbred with escaped black slaves and been conquered and shipped to the Caribbean coast of Central America, then broke free again. The ones I knew were mostly in a town in Belize. They tended to be well educated, for the area and attended classes at the only high school in town, which was run by Jesuits. There they were taught that their ancestors had been cannibals, so they believed it. However, when I returned in the 1990s, there had been a resurgence of ethnic pride, and they no longer called themselves Caribs, they used a name they claim was their original name for themselves, the Garifuna.
    Many of the ideas about the Caribs, such as that they conquered the Arawaks, killed the men and enslaved the women, have been disproven, or at least cannot be proven. The "Black Caribs" AKA Garifuna, survive and are a very intelligent and adaptable people who live in many nations and seem to be unlearning the lies that have been imposed upon them.

  6. Small correction, as someone who studied Christian history in university. The Popes decree on cannibalism was not hypocritical because during the time period the Catholic Church believed Jesus was mostly divine, some sects even fought that he was entirely divine.
    This idea of divinity meant his flesh and blood were pneuma, Which is Greek for breath but more accurately represents some airy divine nature that humans possess. By communing with Jesus you were embracing his divine nature, and pneuma.

  7. It's a poor argument to say cannibalism would be rare as a dietary measure because it's inefficient, or that it’s inefficient at all. Simply comparing the caloric content of muscle from one source to another does not prove inefficiency. Unsuspecting humans are much more vulnerable prey than wild animals, being slower fairly large targets, thinner skinned, with much duller senses, and because they do not assume that they are prey. Hunting a wild animal would take a much larger investment of calories than an unsuspecting human. And an average human is over 100,000 calories, which is one heck of a payoff for the caloric investment of one spear throw. The lack of logic in this video regarding this increases skepticism of the other information presented. Also, you mentioned cannibalism occurring among Europeans, which is believable because their living conditions made them much more desperate than they would be in their European society. Is it not possible that the living conditions on some of the islands one point were hostile enough to make the inhabitants so desperate that cannibalism became acceptable in their culture? It's not like it's impossible for cultures to adopt such low moral standards. If Nazis, who I would argue were worse than cannibals, could have existed in such an era of technology, I think it is absolutely possible that cannibals could have existed in an era of much more primitive technology and hostile living conditions. And in the historical journals of those times, not all natives were labeled as cannibals, which lends credibility to the testimony because if it were made up, why not say it was true of all the tribes? The point I want to make is that it’s not nearly as hard to believe as this video makes it seem.

  8. There were cannibal Indian tribes along the Gulf coast of Texas. One of them was the Karankawa tribe.
    Also, cannibalism still goes on in Africa today.

  9. You should look into the whole « human sacrifice » thing because some academics seem to be saying now that it has similar origins, aka bad translations/fake news to justify colonialism combined with possible misunderstanding of rituals and much more advanced medical practices.

    In other words, the Aztecs performed surgeries and the Europeans were like « holy shit they’re taking out people’s parts and putting them in dishes to eat them!! »

    Or at the very least that the practices have been grossly exaggerated..

    Curious to see what you can find

  10. There is a lot this is leaving out. Ritualistic eating of the dead for religious purposes was a thing in many cultures. It was not for nutritional purposes or enjoyment, but tied to different religious beliefs. Mentioning only Columbus and only the Carib people, as if they were the only tribe in the entire New World, the Pacific Islands, Asia, and Africa who might have practiced cannibalism, is dishonest by omission of so much information. It's like saying everyone is a polytheist and monotheists do not exist because culture A was once mistakenly believed to be monotheistic but later archaeological evidence found that they had many gods, not just one. You cannot make claims about humanity from one story about one culture, in one part of the world.

  11. videos using Columbus diary as a source are not to be trusted. the diaries are translated in many different copies depending on who translates them. Some forms of translations have polar opposite perspectives.

  12. if you think that they eat people. and out them in a ship with other people. and then sell them to other people……… am I the only one thinking that there is a lack of survival instinct here?

  13. 1. American Indigenus people never were slavesthey where more like medieval vassals (Thats why the Europeans had brought the Black Slaves)
    2. Canniibalism wasnt an invention, it existed and exist like a practice in very primitive trives
    3. Your content is aufully unhistoric, this has been only made to support your Left wing political view…
    Greetings from Bolivia

  14. Revisionist history, while some cannibalism may have been exaggerated, there are definitely instances of human sacrifice. Especially the south American Indians like the Incas. Look at some of the mummified remains of some of their own children!

  15. tbh I hated learning history in highschool because it focused on white people and alot of it was praising them, plus we would literally study this for weeks! but when it came to black history we barely learnt anything 🙁 i knew very little about slavery in America and when we learned about apartheid we literally spoke about it for ONE DAY and I was pissed because we live in South Africa! plus I'm black and alot of my elders suffered in apartheid and all my school could do to educate others especially White kids on the Injustice that black people suffered on their own land was give them one fucking day of learning😟thank the Lord that this had changed so much I'm glad some change has been made and is less bias, it's information like this that makes me happy 😁😁😁😁😁

  16. Clicked over here to see The Origin of Cannabis. Imagine my surprise…and disappointment. Hey, let's here about the origin of Cannabis and why it is illegal.

  17. Cannibalism was the cause of Kuru https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuru_(disease) as recently as the late 1950's. I know that's probably not relevant to Columbus, but cannibalism by populations isn't entirely a myth.

  18. Read Of Cannibals by michel de montaigne if you're interested in the topic. It includes a first hand account of someone who lived when America was still being colonized and some good burns against the idea!

  19. That's preety funny because one of the reasons christianity was oppressed in the early years of European exposure in korea is the belief that Christians practiced CANNIBALISM in their secret meetings. Hmmmmmm I wonder where that came from

  20. The Romans were similarly into sensational stories about cannibalism and human sacrifice. One bit of Pliny’s (30.4) sums up the general connection between imperialism and tales of cannibalism nicely: ‘It is not possible for what is owed to the Romans to be valued enough. (They) did away with the atrocities in which to kill a man was most devout and even to eat (a man) was most healthful.’ He says this just after saying that these practices, having been prohibited by the senate, have crossed the ocean, where they continue in Britain. Britain had fairly recently been added to the empire at the time.

  21. You are knowledgeable but anti- European slanted. Perhaps judging history on today's standards is not a good idea.

  22. No I am not racist and did not imagine black Africans as cannibals I thought of people trapped in the snow with limited options and were forced to eat each other

  23. Cannibalism was the terrorist of the Columbus era (Just an excuse to invade a country and exploit their resources)

  24. All that archeological evidence doesn't lie but you do! Cannibalism has been around since the first species!

  25. "the myth of the Savage cannibal"
    Girl… there's literally people who do cannibalism TODAY because of tradition.

  26. I've read an article about the gruesome effects of cannibalism on human body. And it's definitely not the nutritional value that is the biggest concern here. Human meat is toxic to humans and causes madness and slow death

  27. I am from Paraguay. The Guarani, cousins of the Caribs practiced ritual cannibalism, and from time to time just cannibalism, as early as the 1980s. They also had slaves: members of conquered tribes.

  28. At the end of Heinlein’s novel “Stranger In a Strange Land,” after the Martian human Valentine Michael Smith is stoned to death by the crowd outside his hotel, his followers, adhering to Martian custom, make soup out of his body.

    Even if you think this is a spoiler, you can’t grok the story without reading it. Especially the original long version, which was found by his widow and published posthumously.

  29. “LaQueesha, gimme back my leg !!!!”

    Maybe next time Jemima will do a segment on what the “cannibals” do to areas is they infest………..too soon???

  30. You look and sound so stupid. You sound like a natural born white woman or white identified. Wow sad for you and your parents who either had you grow up around whites or you were raised by whites. Its pretty disgusting and disturbing that a black person can grow up w/o any identity outside of speaking in that annoying whinny tone of squeaky strained voiced whites. No offense to them since thats who they are, but bp are so lost that its pathetic. Don’t even know your point here with all this beating around the bush classic euronut bullsht. Just get to the point. Oh no you cannot bc thats how white ppl narrate. They always try to sound smarter than they are through their “proper” english. Which is a dummie language anyway. A knock off of latin. I cannot understand how anyone can live with a fake animated sounding annoying way of speaking like some white kid who never met a regular sounding black person or brooklyn Italian white in their whole entire lives.

    “The Delectable Negro; Human Consumption and Homoeroticism within US Slave Culture”

    by Vincent Woodard , Dwight McBride and Justin A. Joyce

    “Dirt” by Terrence McLaughlin

  31. It always amazes me how many white people (men mostly) provide corrections to this black woman host's information as if black people aren't privy to historical facts and entitled to disseminate what was learned. #SMH #Checkyourracism #keepunderestimatingus #youarethefailureofwesterncivilization

  32. Rude to misrepresent "Transubstantiation". It's more logical in the spiritual realm. Eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ is neither literal or symbolic. He is transferring the potency and protection of His body and blood to you. That's how to anneal our body man to Christ's body man in order to get a connection which allows Christ to work on our spirit man to heal us. God's designs can't be tampered with to avoid loopholes for the devil to sneak into. Ergo, the vocabulary and procedures must mirror those already known in the Bible to get things done. Nothing new, without causing loopholes, can be invented. I hope that makes sense.

  33. Humans weren't being eaten for nutritious purposes, but rather for wicked spiritual, energetic and adrenochrome extraction purposes. This was taught by the archons to their followers. It's the religion that rules the world.

  34. This fool is just so dishonest. Cannibalism was a known precolumbian practice among tribes in Africa and the pacific. Simple as that. She is a known liar.

  35. All these kinds of videos have the same subtext: White people are evil. If brown people do something distasteful (pun intended), it's because white people made them do it. All peoples from all over the world enslaved each other, murdered each other, were racist to each other- but it's all white people's fault, right? Right.

  36. Arawaks to Columbus: “welcome!”
    Result: got invaded (killed off n bred out)

    Caribs to Columbus: “GTFOH!”
    Result: from columbus “we have cannibals!”

  37. tribes still eat human flesh, in china some still eat human baby soup, eskimos eat seal dung, and my dad loves cow brain tacos.

  38. Lots of historical inaccuracies.
    Tainos enemies the Caribs ate Tainos regularly way before Columbus arrived.
    The human calorie values compared to pigs and beavers is ridiculous. First; Every person have different fat content, yes they (uhm used to be) leaner.
    Second; (and it’s a big one) There are no beavers on those islands and Boars (just like horses) were introduced by Spanish explorers.
    So yeah, no beavers no boars, no cows, no deer, or modern chickens. I am sure people took every opportunity to get their protein in order to survive – and for the given technology and circumstances, I cannot even blame them.

  39. Very misleading title. Should be titled Colombus "May" have invented Cannibals of natives, but we're happy hearing about white people being cannibals.

  40. This video isn't accurate, human remain evidence shows native Americans were eating each other. These are facts not opinions

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