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A brief history of cannibalism - Bill Schutt

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15th century Europeans believed they had hit upon a miracle cure: a remedy for epilepsy, hemorrhage, bruising, nausea and virtually any other medical ailment. It was a brown powder known as “mumia,” and was made by grinding up mummified human flesh. But just how common is human cannibalism, and how do cultures partake in it? Bill Schutt explores the complex history of cannibalism.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Bill Schutt
  • Director Diego Huacuja
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Producer Melissa Lopez Ley
  • Art Director Diego Huacuja
  • Storyboard Artist Diego Huacuja
  • Animator Jesús Vargas, Emilia Schettino, Alberto Bala, Daniela Espinosa
  • Designer Jesús Vargas, Emilia Schettino
  • Illustrator Jesús Vargas
  • Audio Design Igor Figueroa
  • Production Company Little Ugly
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore

Medicinal cannibalism was surprisingly widespread in Europe between the 15th and early 18th centuries, and one form, placentophagy is still practiced today in the United states. But when the word “cannibalism” is mentioned, it’s usually something very different that comes to mind. Why is that so? This Q&A with author Bill Schutt will give students insight into what some might call an obsession.

Interested in learning more about the science and history of human and animal cannibalism? Check out Bill Schutt's book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, as he debunks common myths about cannibalism, and explore's its role in biology and anthropology.    

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Bill Schutt
  • Director Diego Huacuja
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Producer Melissa Lopez Ley
  • Art Director Diego Huacuja
  • Storyboard Artist Diego Huacuja
  • Animator Jesús Vargas, Emilia Schettino, Alberto Bala, Daniela Espinosa
  • Designer Jesús Vargas, Emilia Schettino
  • Illustrator Jesús Vargas
  • Audio Design Igor Figueroa
  • Production Company Little Ugly
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more