How Did Jamestown Survive?

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The colony of Jamestown survived a period referred to as “The Starving Time” in the winter of 1609 A.D. by consuming domestic and work animals as well as resorting to cannibalism. According to a report in 2013, excavations in the area managed to exhume remnants of dogs, cats and horses as well as a dismembered corpse of a 14-year old girl.

The first settlers in Jamestown between suffered tremendous human losses due to a combination of a lack of skilled farm workers among settlers and a regional drought. Of the 104 settlers who initially came to Jamestown in 1607 A.D., only 38 survived the first nine months. Most of the survivors of the first wave of Jamestown colonists were reliant on supplies brought by Native Americans and further waves of colonists.

In 1609 A.D., the colonists were on hostile relations with the local tribe, and the loss of a supply ship placed the colony in dire straits. Textual evidence from survivors of Jamestown indicate that the colonists were forced to consume horses and household animals. They eventually also turned to consuming leather as well as corpses to survive. Of 500 colonists living in Jamestown before “The Starving Time,” only 61 survived until May 23, 1610 when they were rescued.