Human Ecology

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Does New Guinea cannibalism have nutritional value?

  • Mark D. Dornstreich
  • George E. B. Morren


This paper examines the question of the nutritional value of cannibalism. Although other authors have concluded that the practice does not have such value, we argue that this cannot properly be determined except in the context of the total subsistence economy and local human ecology. The paper also presents a format for the empirical investigation of foodgetting and new ethnographic information about New Guinea cannibalism. Our major conclusion is that this practice does have nutritional value for certain human groups, specifically tropical peoples living at lowmedium population densities and exploiting a diverse range of animal foods.


Population Density Environmental Management Empirical Investigation Diverse Range Major Conclusion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bailey, K. V. (1964). Nutritional oedema in the Chimbu (New Guinea Highlands).Trop. Geog. Med. 16(1): 33–42.Google Scholar
  2. Bailey, K. V., and Whiteman, J. (1963). Dietary studies in the Chimbu.Trop. Geog. Med. 15(4): 377–388.Google Scholar
  3. Berndt, R. M. (1962).Excess and Restraint: Social Control Among a New Guinea Mountain People, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  4. Bressani, R., and Behar, M. (1964). The use of plant protein foods in preventing malnutrition. InProceedings of the Sixth International Congress of Nutrition, Edinburgh, pp. 181–206.Google Scholar
  5. Buchbinder, G. (1970). Personal communication, April.Google Scholar
  6. Clarke, W. C. (1968). The Nduimba Basin, Bismarck Mts., New Guinea: Place and people. Unpublished doctoral dissertation in geography, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  7. Dornstreich, M. D. (1973). An ecological study of food-getting: The Gadio Enga of New Guinea. Unpublished doctoral dissertation in anthropology, Columbia University, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Fonaroff, L. S. (1965). Was Huntington right about human nutrition?Ann. Ass. Am. Geographers 55: 365–376.Google Scholar
  9. Garn, S. M. and Block, W. D. (1970). The limited nutritional value of cannibalism.Am. Anthropologist 72(1): 106.Google Scholar
  10. Glasse, R. (1967). Cannibalism in the Kuru region of New Guinea.Trans. N.Y. Acad. Sci. Ser. II 29(6): 748–754.Google Scholar
  11. Harris, M. (1966). The cultural ecology of Indian sacred cattle.Curr. Anthropol. 7(1): 51–59.Google Scholar
  12. Hipsley, E. H., and Kirk, N. H. (1965). Studies of Dietary Intake and the Expenditure of Energy by New Guineans, South Pacific Commission Technical Paper No. 147, Noumea, New Caledonia.Google Scholar
  13. Hoad, R. A. (1964). Nomad River Patrol Report No. 4, 1963/64, Western District East Strickland Division, Nomad River, Administration of the Territory of Papua/New Guinea.Google Scholar
  14. Kirk, M. S. (1969). Journey into stone age New Guinea.Nat. Geographic 135(4): 568–592.Google Scholar
  15. Koch, K. F. (1968). On “possession” behavior in New Guinea.J. Polynesian Soc. 77(2): 135–146.Google Scholar
  16. Koch, K. F. (1970). Cannibalistic revenge in Jale warfare.Nat. Hist. 79(2): 40–51.Google Scholar
  17. Levins, R. (1966). The strategy of model building in population biology.Am. Scientist 54: 421–431.Google Scholar
  18. Ma, M. H., Blackburn, C. R. B., McGovern, N. J., Burchett, P., and Arter, W. J. (1968). Liver disease in the Territory of Papua/New Guinea.Trop. Med. Geog. 20(4): 307–316.Google Scholar
  19. Morren, G. E. B. (1973). The strategy of hunting and settlement: The ecology of the Miyanmin of New Guinea. Unpublished doctoral dissertation in anthropology, Columbia University, New York.Google Scholar
  20. Neville, R. T. (1957). Telefomin Patrol Report No. 4, 1956/57, Patrol to the Miyanmin area, West Sepik District, Territory of Papua/New Guinea.Google Scholar
  21. Oomen, H. A. P. C. (1961). The nutritional situation in Western New Guinea.Trop. Med. Geog. 13: 321–335.Google Scholar
  22. Protein Requirements (1965). Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Group (FAO Nutrition Meetings Report Series No. 37), WHO Technical Report Series No. 301, FAO of the United Nations, Rome.Google Scholar
  23. Randall, M. E. (1971). Comment on “the limited value of cannibalism”.Am. Anthropologist 73: 269.Google Scholar
  24. Rappaport, R. A. (1968).Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People, Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  25. Recommended Dietary Allowances (1968). Report of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council, National Academy of Science, 7th ed.Google Scholar
  26. Roberts, D. F. (1956). A demographic study of a Dinka village.Hum. Biol. 28: 323–349.Google Scholar
  27. Schneider, H. K. (1957). The subsistence role of cattle among the Pakot and in East Africa.Am. Anthropologist 59: 278–300.Google Scholar
  28. Serpenti, L. M. (1965).Cultivators in the Swamps: Social Structure and Horticulture in a New Guinea Society, Van Gorcum, Assen.Google Scholar
  29. Shankman, P. (1969). Le roi et le bouille: Levi-Strauss' theory of cannibalism.Am. Anthropologist 71(1): 54–69.Google Scholar
  30. Simpson, C. (1953).Adam with Arrows, Angus and Robertson, Sydney and London.Google Scholar
  31. Sinclair, J. P. (1966).Behind the Ranges: Patrolling in New Guinea, Cambridge University Press, London and New York.Google Scholar
  32. South Pacific Post articles (1968). “Fight leaders in weapon exchange” and “Civilization comes to the Biami area,” September 27.Google Scholar
  33. Suttles, W. (1960). Affinal ties, subsistence and prestige among the Coast Salish.Am. Anthropologist 62: 296–305.Google Scholar
  34. Vayda, A. P. (1961). A re-examination of Northwest coast economic systems.Trans. N.Y. Acad. Sci. Ser. II 23(7): 618–624.Google Scholar
  35. Vayda, A. P. (1970). On the nutritional value of cannibalism.Am. Anthropologist 72: 1462–1463.Google Scholar
  36. Vayda, A. P., Leeds, A., and Smith, D. (1960). The place of pigs in Melanesian subsistence. InActes du VI Congres International des Sciences Anthropologiques et Ethnologiques, Paris, Vol. III, pp. 1653–1658.Google Scholar
  37. Venkatachalam, P. S. (1962).A Study of the Diet: Nutrition and Health of the People of the Chimbu Area (New Guinea Highlands), Department of Public Health Monograph No. 4, Territory of Papua/New Guinea.Google Scholar
  38. Wagner, R. (1967).The Curse of the Souw: Principles of Daribi Clan Definition and Alliance, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  39. Walens, S., and Wagner, R. (1971). Pigs, proteins and people-eaters.Am. Anthropologist 73: 269–270.Google Scholar
  40. Zimmer, G. F. W. (1969). When the Kukukukus came from the hills, it was to kill.Pacific Islands Monthly 40(11): 85–93.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark D. Dornstreich
    • 1
  • George E. B. Morren
    • 2
  1. 1.Livingston CollegeRutgers UniversityNew Brunswick
  2. 2.S.U.N.Y. at BinghamtonBinghamton

Personalised recommendations