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Stories about isolated, starving Eskimo groups eating their dying or dead elders are trivial by comparison. The author notes that today we and the media generally associate cannibalism with sociopathic and psychopathic individuals, invariably male loners. She notes that this sort of mentally disturbed cannibalism is very rare, and most contemporary and recent cases of cannibalism involve starvation or a culturally determined pattern of consumptive acts that often were associated with feelings of loss and grief for the consumed person.

Travis-Henikoff is very well versed in anthropology, especially paleoanthropology, and is personally acquainted with many of the scholars who practice this science of very ancient human life and evolution. Hence, she is able to paint a highly credible picture of human cannibalism that goes back hundreds of thousands of years.

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This information from bones, when coupled with genetic data on prion disease, leads to a reasonable hypothesis that proposes our ancestors were all cannibals. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I predict that the reader will enjoy this book as much as I did. Who other than a gastronomic enthusiast could write such an entertaining and enlightening book on cannibalism?

Few people believe their ancestors practiced cannibalism, and some scholars deny its existence altogether, but the truth is. Recent finds of species-specific tooth marks on dinosaur bones prove occurrences of cannibalism dating back to the Mesozoic era.

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Today, many people see themselves as standing outside the realm of the animal kingdom, but as living creatures with functional brains, we are not only animals, but the dominating force that holds sway over the magnificent puzzle of global biota that exists on planet Earth. From our very beginnings, human cannibalism has been practiced for numerous reasons, many of which have been labeled. For example, the Aztecs practicing cannibalism to keep the sun from dying versus Christian Communion. Nevertheless, human flesh is human flesh, and the consuming of it by another human constitutes an act of cannibalism.

The most reliable sources state that human flesh resembles beef, though it is lighter in color and texture, and, according to some, the most delicious of meats. One other form of cannibalism should be noted as it graces the pages of this book. As individuals, we are a summation of our unique genetics, all we have experienced, and what we have been taught to believe.

If the people within the society to which you were born practice cannibalism, burn people at stakes, make war, promote terrorism, or scarify their bodies, chances are you will do the same. This volume investigates not only the subject of cannibalism, but when and why people ate those of their own kind and continue to do so to this very day. The why of cannibalism forces the examination of many surrounding subjects, from the many foods we eat, to the caves of our ancient past, to what makes us human.

How do belief systems affect our lives?

Dinner with a Cannibal

Are we different today from our ancestors of yesteryear? Do the memes of the societies we live in dictate our beliefs and our actions? Where do religions fit in? Are religions more powerful than kings, queens and governments? Do we function instinctually, or are we mere tools of our societies? How did we get to where and how we are today? How different are we, one society to another? And how do we differ from our most ancient ancestors? Dinner with a Cannibal presents the history of cannibalism in concert with human development, making note of religions and societies that either condoned or outlawed the practice.

The interpretation of human cannibalism used in this volume is the ingestion of any part of the human form, including fluids or matter emanating from the body. Information for this book was gathered over a seven-year period from authoritative primary sources. Research materials and investigations used for accepting the fact that human cannibalism was and is real and not uncommon, include scientific reports; firsthand accounts; anthropological and archaeological evidence; historical, anthropological and archaeological writings; recent news reports; and the analyzing of belief systems.

Advice, editing, readings and contributions from leading professors, paleoanthropologists, archaeologists and scientists from multiple fields, plus physician specialists, directed and tightened the work. I have used the names of various tribes and peoples only when the literature has been highly publicized or those listed are deceased. The main thrust of this book is to consider the human condition rather than to present a litany of everyone known to have practiced cannibalism. As an independent scholar specializing in paleoanthropology, she has worked with the Getty Conservation team on the preservation of artifacts at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, and participated in an archeological dig alongside J.

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Sadistic serial killers and the oft-stereotyped tribesmen of the Amazon figure prominently, but where Travis-Henikoff truly excels is in her sociological and anthropological analysis, offering thoughtful insights into the whys of cannibalism, lucidly explaining how cannibalism can begin in a society, as well as its historical employment in times of famine, war and even during a period of political witch hunting in Communist China. A brief but entertaining digression into folklore examines cannibalism in fairy tales such as the Brothers Grimm. The result is an eminently enjoyable, albeit very dark exploration of a taboo topic that should give armchair anthropologists, sociologists and historians plenty to chew on.

Her perspective as a gastronomist helps to situate cannibalism within a wide range of global culinary practices from the Amazon to the American Southwest to Polynesia. Highly recommended for public libraries; endnotes and a bibliography additionally recommend Travis-Henikoff. Travis-Henikoff, an independent scholar who specializes in paleoanthropology, spent seven years researching and writing this fascinating book about the history of cannibalistic practices.

Her writing engages readers to the point that one does not want to put the book down.


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If the reader has a background in anthropology, this book will be more valuable, but an educated layperson will find it very enlightening too. The book is short and concise enough to fulfill research requirements for undergraduates, but it also provides enough information to entice scholars to research further. It ends with good chapter notes, a lengthy bibliography, and a precise index. It will become a classic in its field.

Holloway, professor of anthropology, Columbia University. Dinner with a Cannibal brings us face to face with another aspect of ourselves that many would prefer not to confront.

And yet, if we are to ultimately fashion a real image of ourselves, not as fallen angels but as risen apes, this book will serve as an essential step in that direction. Dinner with a Cannibal is exceptionally well researched and beautifully written. Our notion of exotic food may never be the same. Berthoff, professor emerita of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston. By removing the denial, which segments our thinking, Travis-Henikoff offers a way to integrate our basic nature with the skills and talents we have developed during that history.

This, in turn, provides us a set of tools for creating our future.

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Read Excerpt. Contents Acknowledgments Foreword by Christy G. Carolee A. Author Information. Carole A. Your browser is currently not set to accept cookies. Please turn this functionality on or check if you have another program set to block cookies. Your web browser either does not support Javascript, or scripts are being blocked. Please update your browser or enable Javascript to allow our site to run correctly. To give you the best possible experience this site uses cookies.

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