A UNIVERSITY lecturer has won a global award for his strange research into cannibals.

Dr James Cole has studied the calorific value of the human body, compared to the meat of animals that we usually eat.

The archaeology lecturer at the University of Brighton was one of ten award winners of the Ig Nobel Prize, after facing competition from thousands of other nominees.

He admits the subject of cannibalism still holds a “morbid fascination” for modern societies, especially with the novels and films from Thomas Harris’ acclaimed Hannibal Lecter series.

The Ig Nobel Prize is awarded for achievements that ‘first make people laugh, and then make them think’ and are a pun on the Nobel Prizes.

Dr Cole was among 10 winners at the ceremony held at Harvard University in the United States on Thursday.

There were thousands of nominations across the weird and bizarre world of academia, with prizes in science, technology, politics, culture, and humanities.

He said: “I’m honoured my research has been recognised in this way. Human cannibalism is a subject that continues to hold a morbid fascination within modern societies.

“In particular, identifying the motivations for human cannibalism remains a contentious issue.”

The awards were organised by American magazine Annals of Improbable Research and is co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students.

Genuine Nobel Laureates were invited to hand out prizes at the ceremony.

Dr Cole is the Principal Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Brighton, and is an expert in human origins.

He found that the average 10-stone human body has 32,000 calories in muscle tissue, compared to 163,000 calories in the muscle tissue of a deer, or the estimated 3.6 million calories in mammoth muscles.

The results question the idea that our ancestors hunted and ate members of their species for strictly nutritional reasons, if other animals have a greater calorie return.

Dr Cole added: “It is possible that some of our ancestors may have eaten members of their own species out of necessity.

“But it is more likely perhaps to think of the cannibalism act within a social framework rather than a nutritional one.”