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Anthropology PhD Students Find Evidence of Early Human Eating an Entire Rattlesnake

Two former students, Crystal Dozier and Elanor Sonderman, and one current student, Morgan Smith, analyzed a coprolite as part of a final project. This coprolite turned out to reveal more than expected.   The team found the snakes bones, scales, and fang in the coprolite. Further analysis revealed the fang may have belonged to a […]

Two former students, Crystal Dozier and Elanor Sonderman, and one current student, Morgan Smith, analyzed a coprolite as part of a final project. This coprolite turned out to reveal more than expected.   The team found the snakes bones, scales, and fang in the coprolite. Further analysis revealed the fang may have belonged to a rattlesnake, making this coprolite the first fecal record of humans eating entire venomous snakes.

It cannot be deduced with certainty, but the snake may have been eaten as part of a ritual act. Snakes are viewed as water carriers in many cultures. This snake appears to have been consumed during a drought, making it possible the consumption of this snake was in an attempt to restore rainfall. The presence of scales and a fang imply the snake was not prepped for consumption prior to being eaten.

We do not know what happened to the individual who consumed the venomous snake, but we can assume he lived long enough to digest and discard the fang through defecation. His feces appeared normal, and did not exhibit signs to show adverse effects to the snake. The coprolite is from the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas, dated to approximately 1500 years ago.

 

Sonderman, Elanor, Crystal Dozier, and Morgan Smith.
2019         Analysis of a coprolite from Conejo Shelter, Texas: Potential ritualistic Viperous snake consumption. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 25, pp. 85-93