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Exocannibalism (from Greek Exo-, "from outside" and Cannibalism, 'to eat humans'), as opposed to endocannibalism, is the consumption of flesh outside one's close social group—for example, eating one's enemy. When done ritually, it has been associated with being a means of imbibing valued qualities of the victim or as an act of final violence against the deceased in the case of sociopathy,[1] as well as a symbolic expression of the domination of an enemy in warfare.[2] Such practices have been documented in such cultures as the Aztecs from Mexico, the Carib and the Tupinambá from South America.

Historically, it has also been used as a practical expediency in especially desperate attritional or guerrilla warfare when the extreme hunger and the abundance of humans being killed coincide to create conditions ripe for cannibalism.[3]

Cultural practice[edit]

Cannibalism is something that has been found wherever and whenever humans have formed societies. Traditionally, accounts of cannibalism were found embedded in myths and folklore as a common motive that indicated people were less than fully human. Exocannibalism in the form of eating enemies is usually done to express hostility and domination toward the victim.[4] The perpetrator eats their victim to inflict ultimate indignity and humiliation. It has also been practiced along with headhunting and scalping to display war trophies. John Kantner, an archaeologist who studied alleged cannibalism in the American Southwest, believes that when resources decrease the competition of societies increased and exocannibalism can ensue.[1] Exocannibalism would generally be considered to be the opposite of endocannibalism, but they are both forms of ritual cannibalism. There have been no previous accounts of a culture practicing both forms of ritual cannibalism, aside from a recent study that confirmed the Wari', an Amazonian tribe in Brazil, practiced both forms. [5]

List of cultures in which it occurs[edit]

Nz Maori

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Cannibalism, Encyclopedia of Death and Dying.
  2. ^ James W. Dow, Cannibalism, Reprinted from Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, Vol. 1. Barbara A. Tenenbaum, ed. Pp. 535-537. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons[copyright violation?]
  3. ^ Tanaka, Yuki. Hidden horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II, Westview Press, 1996, p.127.
  4. ^ Neufeldt, Robyn (2012). Biasing Cannibalism in Anthropology. 
  5. ^ Travis-Henikoff, Carole A (2008). Dinner with a Cannibal. Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica Press. p. 165. ISBN 9781595800305. 
  6. ^ Biasing Cannibalism in Anthropology by Robyn Neufeldt (2012)