Discussing Cannibalism and Prions: The Story of the Fore Tribe in Papua New Guinea


It isn't new to find new places and habitats in that environment and this includes humans living there. Maybe not new now, but at some point, people would visit regions to find natural resources especially in Africa, only to find humans living there. This was the same case of an event that took place in the 1930s when gold prospect researchers traveled far down to Papua New Guinea to find gold but on reaching there, they found people living there. Different tribes, different languages, and they had not experienced the modern world as at then.

Just as you must have thought, history and learning began so as to be able to understand the tribe, and the people but then in one tribe name the Fore tribe with about 11,000 people as inhabitants, it was seen that up to 200 people die yearly. This was a thing of concern as the death was common in women and children. They were suffering from a disease known as KURU.


All attempt to find the cause was to no avail but the symptoms were similar as the people who had the disease started to suffer personality changes as they laughed uncontrollably, they begin to have trembling limbs, after which hey are unable to work or eat, after which they die. Researchers like Shirley Lindenbaum began to find answers and so she asked questions, and did research after which it was then clear that the reason why the disease was prevalent to women and children was because there was a custom they had during rites for their dead were the women would eat the corpses of their dead husbands as it would prevent them from falling ill, and help house the spirit of the dead person. The children got these diseases because they would also eat the corpse since their mothers would sneak to give to them.

The cause of the disease was as a result of a Prion (Proteinaceous Infectious Particle) which are misshaped, and they also cause normal proteins in the body to also be misshaped. These Prions led to huge holes in the cerebellum over time which led to the personality changes after which they begin to suffer other symptoms. You know that popular Mad Cow Disease, Yeah!! Just see it in that light. In the 1960s, the practice was stopped and its last case was seen in 2009. While so many people will be too quick to judge them for their primitive behavior, there is a possibility that you must have heard of the word Medical Cannibalism but before we continue, let's look at how cannibalism became a thing.


The oldest finding of cannibalism was found in a french cave in Moula-Guercy where broken bones from a 100 thousand years ago were found there, and this was from an article in 1999. The article went on to say that the way the bones were broken were in a way to extract marrow and brains from them. While the reasons for these people performing cannibalism was unknown, it was clear that the Gegu dynasty in China performed cannibalism for medicinal purposes where they would cut out meat from their body usually the thigh region and would prepare it for sick relatives or love ones. If we are going to trace medical cannibalism, then we cannot excuse Galen who would use blood remedies.

While we do not eat human's meat in recent times, we still get things from other humans and while we cannot classify it as cannibalism, we call it transfusion or transplant. One of the things we get from humans is blood, and we do this through transfusion, and although we do not need to drink the blood, we get the blood into our body but not for getting younger but as a medical process to safe life.

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