We all watched in awe as Hannibal Lecter created his culinary masterpieces using human flesh. But science tells us that eating human meat is not ideal. According to research, human flesh is less nutritious than other kinds of meat. Game meat like boar or deer gives you far more energy.
Researchers were not aiming to justify cannibalism as a valid dietary choice. The research was done to determine what kind of role did cannibalism have in early civilizations. The fact of the matter is that cannibalism is not viable due to prion diseases connected to it. The nasty thing about prion diseases is that they are pretty much incurable.
Archaeologists already have evidence that early hominids practiced cannibalism. Skulls have been found with a missing base which would allow easier access to a persons brain. They have also found cut marks and various butchering techniques when examining prehistoric human remains similar to ones used when cutting up an animal carcass.
Scientists usually theorize that early humans may have dabbled in cannibalism because of nutritional reasons. Compared to some of the things that early humans, and in fact people today, have eaten, a nice piece of human meat might even look appetizing.
Is Cannibalism a Viable Diet?
We still have no idea whether early humans resorted to cannibalism because of nutrition. There is also no way for us to know if a human being could survive on a cannibalistic diet. Scientists also have no proof that eating a human being is any better or worse than eating any species of animal, domesticated or otherwise.
In order to determine if early humans used cannibalism for the calories or something else, scientist calculated how many calories can be contained in a human body.
When looking at plain nutritional value, human flesh is average. This is especially true when considering the amount of calories a kilogram of human muscle mass contains. Animals like fish, cattle, birds and even bears contain more calories per pound of flesh than a human. On the other hand, people contain more calories than a horse. So human meat is a mediocre food source.
This tells us that early humans used cannibalism for more than filling up their stomachs. Although eating human flesh during a time when food is not readily available seems highly practical. If a person dies from natural causes it made sense for our ancestors to eat them because no energy is expended for obtaining the food.
But a more likely reason for early humans to partake in cannibalism is probably connected to some social occasion. Maybe it was a part of some kind of funeral ritual or another religious ceremony. Other reasons could be connected to some sort of demonstration of power during wartime. There is no way to determine any of this. The only thing we can learn is whether cannibalism can be a viable life choice.
But there aren’t many people who would be willing participants in a study like that.