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"The primal command," writes anthropologist Christy Turner, "is, do not eat people." Historically, cultures across the world have violated this prime directive, some regularly and without apparent afterthought, some only under harshest duress. Turner has uncovered what he considers to be incontrovertible evidence of human sacrifice and cannibalism in a part of the world once thought to have been free of such horrors: the American Southwest. There, Turner maintains, thousands of burned and broken human bones, sometimes buried en masse, have been uncovered, most in sites ranging from a thousand to a few hundred years old. In one such site, the Arizona village of Awatovi, dozens of suspected witches were massacred by their fellow Hopis; in another, the great mountaintop city of Mesa Verde, Colorado, several pits containing the remains of cannibalized murder victims have been excavated. Turner suggests that the great Anasazi city of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, may have been a center of violent ritual and cannibalism, which helps explain why modern Indian residents of the region shun it as a place of bad medicine.
Turner and his coauthor, the late Jacqueline Turner, are careful not to conjecture too widely on the whys of prehistoric Southwestern cannibalism, perhaps having guessed that the whats and hows would be controversial enough--and their book, challenging received wisdom as it does, is sure to generate significant controversy among archaeologists working in the region. --Gregory McNamee [via]