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Not to long ago, a group of people were in a plane crash, and stranded out in the cold wilderness all alone. When their food ran out, they began to eat the members of the group that died. The Yanomamo of Venezuela supposedly burn their dead in the middle of the village, then grind up the teeth and bones and make it into the soup for all to eat. Both of these stories probably make you cringe and cause you to loose your appetite, but are they cannibalism?

The survivors of the plane crash technically did not engage in cannibalism. Why? Because cannibalism is defined as the culturally accepted practice of ingestion of human body parts. The survivors' culture did not sanction their actions, they did not think kindly of it, they did it to provide their own sustenance. On the other hand, the Yanomamo engaged in their practice ritualistically and repetitively.

When Bruce Trigger went to the Huron of Canada to do an anthropological study, what he was told horrified him. When the community would capture an enemy warrior, they would welcome him into a family. They would keep the warrior for a period of time, making him feel welcome, loved, a part of the community. Then all of a sudden, both the family and the rest of the community would torture and kill the warrior. The community then gathered and ate the flesh of the dead warrior.

The Aztecs of Mexico engaged in the same practice as the Huron, taking in a warrior then killing and eating them. The only difference is that the host family did not take part in the torture, killing, or feasting, instead they mourned the death.

Now it might surprise you that what I just told you might be a myth. No anthropologist or scientist has ever reported having seen acts of cannibalism. There have been bones found with bite marks on them, there have been stories told of their groups engaging in the practice. However, no culture today will admit to practicing cannibalism.

So let me ask you, how do people get Kuru? Kuru is a disease which can only be transmitted through eating the brain of an affected person. Why is it so prevalent in certain societies? Is cannibalism a myth, or a petrifying reality? I will leave this decision up to you.