Modern denisovans, anyway.
It comes as a shock to many people that cannibalism ran riot in some cultures. It is seldom recognised that cannibalism has found its most formidable opponent in the dedicated work of countless missionaries like Don and Carol Richardson.
I’m acquainted with this subject for a pretty random reason: my parents subscribed to a homeschooling curriculum which included a book about these missionaries and some other ones who got killed and presumably eaten. There were some pretty gruesome descriptions that stick with me 22 years or so later. For example, other than the utilitarian sort of cannibalism the tribes involved also practiced a ritual simulation of cannibalizing their dead, where they would wait until the body was rotting and then a person’s spiritual heir would tear the body’s heart out of the rotting chest and then eat a piece of bread with the gore-covered hand.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to remember the book’s title and there’s about a million distractors on Amazon, about half of which appear to be written by disciples of Rousseau (these savages are beautiful and noble, trust us, it’s a very post-modern aesthetic).
In 1962, missionary Don Richardson felt called to preach the gospel to the Sawi tribe in western New Guinea in Indonesia. He set about learning the native Sawi language which was daunting in its complexity. There are 19 tenses for every verb! Don was able to become fluent in the language after a tough schedule of 8–10 hour daily learning sessions.
This may not count as “hyperverbal pirate kings” exactly but it does indicate a native capacity for abstraction which may translate into a verbal tilt given a 100-IQ boost.
When Don and his wife Carol arrived among the Sawi people, they found a culture built on warfare, treachery and deceit between neighbouring tribes. Particularly galling was the process known as ‘fattening the pig for the slaughter’ whereby an apparent friendship was developed for the purpose of luring the victim into a sense of security, suddenly shattered when ‘the pig’ was suddenly killed and then eaten. The Richardsons were appalled by this brutal way of life. They agonised over how to make a breakthrough in their Christian communication.
Ethnocentrism and brutality are pretty normal base instincts for any hominid, but you won’t find this cultural practice of gaslighting someone (for years on end sometimes- apparently just for the enjoyment of anticipating the betrayal) among other primitive peoples. It’s a very alien psychology.
Things got worse. When they told the story of Jesus to the committed cannibals, the Sawi made Judas their hero because of the way he had (in their eyes) ‘fattened’ Jesus for the slaughter.
Finally the Richardsons decided to leave and they watched with astonishment as the tribes, motivated to prevent this, made peace with a strange ceremony. Both tribes offered a baby into the care of their enemies, not, as the Richardsons feared, as a human sacrifice, but as a ‘peace child’. As long as the peace child lived, peace was guaranteed. And the peace child was exempt from fattening the pig for the slaughter, for killing the peace child was the greatest sin.
At last Don and Carol had the key to unlock the Sawi culture. They explained that Jesus was God’s peace child, and he was killed as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Judas was now no longer the hero and the Sawi became Christians in large numbers.
What a breakthrough for God’s kingdom!
This reminds me of the practice of elite families intermarrying their kids as (presumably) collateral to guarantee a material interest in mutual good faith.