Eating with Cannibals in Papua New Guinea



Image: National Geographic Television

Piers Gibbon with an elder in Negadai village. Some of the elders in this village claim to have practiced cannibalism.

Cannibalism is a word to spread fear through your body at the thought of what it means. Yet for years, centuries even, it was practiced in various areas of the world, including England, where remains found in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge suggest that a man may have died as a result of this macabre practice. National Geographic Channel has gone out to learn about the whys and wherefores of cannibalism by speaking to the people who know best. Those that have killed and eaten other humans.


Image: National Geographic Television

Piers Gibbon traveled to Papua New Guinea’s Western Province to try and discover if the practice is still going on and why it came to be in the first place. Australian patrol reports from the area in the 1960s suggested that the motive was a ‘gross insult’ against the victims, while other rumors were that it was ceremonial. Piers’ first stop was with the Samo people, who live a hard existence with minimal food and no electricity or running water, living in fact as they have since time immemorial. He had no trouble finding people willing to talk about the practice of cannibalism. As a village elder explained: “When I was little, a woman was killed. They cut her up with a bamboo knife. I tasted it. It didn’t like the meat, it didn’t taste like pig or cassowary, so I stopped.”

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