England was once populated by cannibals who used to feats on each other before carving patters on the bones, a new study suggests.
Archaeological investigations there revealed intensively processed human bones intermingled with butchered remains of large mammals and a range of flint, bone, antler and ivory artefacts.
'However, what is exceptional in this case is the choice of raw material - human bone - and the cannibalistic context in which it was produced, ' she said.
Silvia Bello, one of the researchers, said the engraved motif was similar to engravings found in other European archaeological sites.
Paleontologists previously found evidence of human cannibalistic behavior at Gough's Cave in the form of human skulls that had been purposefully chipped away to make bowls, or "skull cups".
The zigzag markings carved into the bones could be a savage tribal emblem left by early humans who killed their victims and ate them up or they may have been a funeral rite as a tribute to the dead, who died naturally but were eaten by their companions when food was scarce. The bone had been modified by cut marks, percussion damage and human tooth marks, as well as unusual zig-zagging cuts on one side.
Gough's Cave was first discovered in the 1880s and frequent excavations at the site have found evidence that humans lived there for thousands of years, including "Cheddar Man", Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, which dates from 7,150BC.
Their analysis of the bone led them to conclude that the zig-zag marks were engraved intentionally, suggesting they were made as part of a ritual.
"The engraving was a purposeful component of the cannibalistic practice, rich in symbolic connotations".