Scalping is the act of cutting or tearing a part of the human scalp, with hair attached, from the head, and generally occurred in warfare with the scalp being a trophy.[1] Scalp-taking is considered part of the broader cultural practice of the taking and display of human body parts as trophies, and may have developed as an alternative to the taking of human heads, for scalps were easier to take, transport, and preserve for subsequent display. Scalping independently developed in various cultures in both the Old and New Worlds.[2]

Karl Bodmer's 1844 aquatint Scalp Dance of the Minitarres depicts Siouan Hidatsa people in a scalp dance.

Europe edit

One of the earliest examples of scalping dates back to the mesolithic period, found at a hunter-gatherer cemetery in Sweden.[3] Several human remains from the stone-age Ertebølle culture in Denmark show evidence of scalping.[4] A man found in a grave in the Alvastra pile-dwelling in Sweden had been scalped approximately 5,000 years ago.[5]

Georg Frederici noted that “Herodotus provided the only clear and satisfactory portrayal of a scalping people in the old world” in his description of the Scythians, a nomadic people then located to the north and west of the Black Sea.[6] Herodotus related that Scythian warriors would behead the enemies they defeated in battle and present the heads to their king to claim their share of the plunder. Then, the warrior would skin the head “by making a circular cut round the ears and shaking out the skull; he then scrapes the flesh off the skin with the rib of an ox, and when it is clean works it with his fingers until it is supple, and fit to be used as a sort of handkerchief. He hangs these handkerchiefs on the bridle of his horse, and is very proud of them. The best man is the man who has the greatest number.”[7]

Ammianus Marcellinus noted the taking of scalps by the Alani in terms quite similar to those used by Herodotus.[8] The Abbé Emmanuel H. D. Domenech referred to the decalvare of the ancient Germans and the capillos et cutem detrahere of the code of the Visigoths as examples of scalping in early medieval Europe,[9] though some more recent interpretations of these terms relate them to shaving off the hair of the head as a legal punishment rather than scalping.[10]

In England in 1036, Earl Godwin, father of Harold Godwinson, was reportedly responsible for scalping his enemies, among whom was Alfred Aetheling. According to the ancient Abingdon manuscript, 'some of them were blinded, some maimed, some scalped. No more horrible deed was done in this country since the Danes came and made peace here'.[11]

In 1845, mercenary John Duncan observed what he estimated to be 700 scalps taken in warfare and displayed as trophies by a contingent of female soldiers—Dahomey Amazons—employed by the King of Dahomey (present-day Republic of Benin). Duncan noted that these would have been taken and kept over a long period of time and would not have come from a single battle. Although Duncan travelled widely in Dahomey, and described customs such as the taking of heads and the retention of skulls as trophies, nowhere else does he mention scalping.[12][13]

Occasional instances of scalping of dead Axis troops by Allied military personnel are known from World War II. While many of these instances took place in the Pacific Theater, along with more extreme forms of trophy-hunting (see American mutilation of Japanese war dead), occasional instances are reported in the European Theater as well. One particularly widely reported, although disputed, case involves that of German general Friedrich Kussin, the commandant of the town of Arnhem who was ambushed and killed by British paratroopers in the early stages of Operation Market Garden.[14]

Asia edit

There is physical evidence that scalping was practiced during the Longshan and Erlitou periods in China's central plain.[15]

A skull from an Iron Age cemetery in South Siberia shows evidence of scalping. It lends physical evidence to the practice of scalp taking by the Scythians living there.[16]

Some evidence is also found in the Indian Subcontinent. Bhai Taru Singh (c. 1720 – 1 July 1745)[17] was a prominent Sikh martyr known for sacrificing his life, in the name of protecting Sikh values, by having had his head scalped rather than cutting his hair and converting to Islam.[18][19]

Americas edit

Illustration of a scalp dance from the 1919 edition of 1884 children's book Indian History for Young Folks by Francis S. Drake[20]

Scalping in the Americas predominantly arose from the practices of Indian tribes, and was later copied by European colonists on the continent. [21]

Techniques edit

Specific scalping techniques varied somewhat from place to place, depending on the cultural patterns of the scalper regarding the desired shape, size, and intended use of the severed scalp, and on how the victims wore their hair, but the general process of scalping was quite uniform. The scalper firmly grasped the hair of a subdued adversary, made several quick semicircular cuts with a sharp instrument on either side of the area to be taken, and then vigorously yanked at the nearly-severed scalp. The scalp separated from the skull along the plane of the areolar connective tissue, the fourth (and least substantial) of the five layers of the human scalp. Scalping was not in itself fatal, though it was most commonly inflicted on the gravely wounded or the dead. The earliest instruments used in scalping were stone knives crafted of flint, chert, or obsidian, or other materials like reeds or oyster shells that could be worked to carry an edge equal to the task. Collectively, such tools were also used for a variety of everyday tasks like skinning and processing game, but were replaced by metal knives acquired in trade through European contact. The implement, often referred to as a "scalping knife" in popular American and European literature, was not known as such by Native Americans, a knife being for them just a simple and effective multi-purpose utility tool for which scalping was but one of many uses.[22][23]

Intertribal conflict edit

1732 illustration by Alexandre de Batz of Choctaw people of the Mississippi in war paint, bearing scalps

There is substantial archaeological evidence of scalping in North America in the pre-Columbian era.[24][25] Carbon dating of skulls show evidence of scalping as early as 600 AD; some skulls show evidence of healing from scalping injuries, suggesting at least some victims occasionally survived at least several months.[25] Among Plains Indians, it seems to have been practiced primarily as part of intertribal warfare, with scalps only taken of enemies killed in battle.[25] However, author and historian Mark van de Logt wrote, "Although military historians tend to reserve the concept of 'total war'", in which civilians are targeted, "for conflicts between modern industrial nations," the term "closely approaches the state of affairs between the Pawnees, the Sioux, and the Cheyennes. Noncombatants were legitimate targets. Indeed, the taking of a scalp of a woman or child was considered honorable because it signified that the scalp taker had dared to enter the very heart of the enemy's territory."[26]

Knife and Sheath, probably Sioux, early 19th century, Brooklyn Museum

Many tribes of Native Americans practiced scalping, in some instances up until the end of the 19th century. Of the approximately 500 bodies at the Crow Creek massacre site, 90 percent of the skulls show evidence of scalping. The event took place circa 1325 AD.[27] European colonisation of the Americas increased the incidence of intertribal conflict, and consequently an increase in the prevalence of scalping.[24]

Colonial wars edit

1847 illustration of Hannah Duston scalping the sleeping Abenaki family, including six children, who had kidnapped her and murdered her infant after the Raid on Haverhill (1697)

The Connecticut and Massachusetts colonies offered bounties for the heads of killed Indians, and later for just their scalps, during the Pequot War in the 1630s;[28][29] Connecticut specifically reimbursed Mohegans for slaying the Pequot in 1637.[30] Four years later, the Dutch in New Amsterdam offered bounties for the heads of Raritans.[30] In 1643, the Iroquois attacked a group of Huron pelters and French carpenters near Montreal, killing and scalping three of the French.[31]

Bounties for Indian captives or their scalps appeared in the legislation of the American colonies during the Susquehannock War (1675–77).[32] New England offered bounties to white settlers and Narragansett people in 1675 during King Philip's War.[30] By 1692, New France also paid their native allies for scalps of their enemies.[30] In 1697, on the northern frontier of Massachusetts colony, settler Hannah Duston killed ten of her Abenaki captors during her nighttime escape, presented their ten scalps to the Massachusetts General Assembly, and was rewarded with bounties for two men, two women, and six children, even though Massachusetts had rescinded the law authorizing scalp bounties six months earlier.[28] There were six colonial wars with New England and the Iroquois Confederacy fighting New France and the Wabanaki Confederacy over a 75-year period, starting with King William's War in 1688. All sides scalped victims, including noncombatants, during this frontier warfare.[33] Bounty policies originally intended only for Native American scalps were extended to enemy colonists.[30]

Massachusetts created a scalp bounty during King William's War in July 1689, and continued doing so during Queen Anne's War in 1703.[34][35] During Father Rale's War (1722–1725), on August 8, 1722, Massachusetts put a bounty on native families, paying 100 pounds sterling for the scalps of male Indians aged 12 and over, and 50 pounds sterling for women and children.[29][36] Ranger John Lovewell is known to have conducted scalp-hunting expeditions, the most famous being the Battle of Pequawket in New Hampshire.[citation needed]

In the 1710s and 1720s, New France engaged in frontier warfare with the Natchez people and the Meskwaki people, during which both sides employed the practice.[citation needed] In response to repeated massacres of British families by the French and their native allies during King George's War, Massachusetts governor William Shirley issued a bounty in 1746 to be paid to British-allied Indians for the scalps of French-allied Indian men, women, and children.[37] New York passed a scalp act in 1747.[38]

During Father Le Loutre's War and the Seven Years' War in Nova Scotia and Acadia, French colonists offered payments to Indians for British scalps.[39] In 1749, British governor Edward Cornwallis created an extirpation proclamation, which included a bounty for male scalps or prisoners. Also during the Seven Years' War, Governor of Nova Scotia Charles Lawrence offered a reward for male Mi'kmaq scalps in 1756.[40] (In 2000, some Mi'kmaq argued that this proclamation was still legal in Nova Scotia. Government officials argued that it was no longer legal because the bounty was superseded by later treaties - see the Halifax Treaties).[41]

During the French and Indian War, as of June 12, 1755, Massachusetts governor William Shirley was offering a bounty of £40 for a male Indian scalp, and £20 for scalps of females or of children under 12 years old.[34][42] In 1756, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Robert Morris, in his declaration of war against the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) people, offered "130 Pieces of Eight, for the Scalp of Every Male Indian Enemy, above the Age of Twelve Years," and "50 Pieces of Eight for the Scalp of Every Indian Woman, produced as evidence of their being killed."[34][43]

Although much has been made of the existence of scalp bounties, generally because they have been easily accessible as statutes, little research exists on the numbers of bounties actually paid. Early frontier warfare in forested areas in the era of flintlock muzzle-loading rifles favored tomahawks and knives over firearms because of the long loading time after a shot was fired. Advantage was clearly held by bow, knife, and hatchet. Some states had a history of escalating the payout of bounties offered per scalp, presumably because lower bounties were ineffective and were not worth risking one's life in exchange for the payoff. Rising bounties were a measure of bounty system failure.[citation needed]

American Revolution edit

In the American Revolutionary War, Henry Hamilton, the British lieutenant governor and superintendent of Indian Affairs at Fort Detroit, was known by American Patriots as the "hair-buyer general" because they believed he encouraged and paid his Native American allies to scalp American settlers. As a result, when Hamilton was captured, he was treated as a war criminal instead of a prisoner of war. However, American historians have noted that there was no proof that he had ever offered rewards for scalps,[44] and it is now believed that no British officer paid for scalps during the American Revolution.[45]

The September 13, 1779, journal entry of Lieutenant William Barton tells of patriots participating in scalping.[46]

American propaganda poster circa the War of 1812, illustrating and poeticizing a British officer giving a Native man (referred to as a "Savage Indian") a reward for an American soldier's scalp

It is well established that the Iroquois, allied to the British during the American Revolution, practiced scalping. The most famous case was that of Jane McCrea, whose fiancé was a Loyalist officer. She was abducted by Iroquois, loyal to the British and under the command of John Burgoyne, and ultimately scalped and shot. Her death inspired many colonists to join the fight against the British invasion from Canada, an effort which ended in defeat at the Battle of Saratoga.[47]

Mexico edit

In 1835, the government of the Mexican state of Sonora put a bounty on the Apache which,[48] over time, evolved into a payment by the government of 100 pesos for each scalp of a male 14 or more years old.[49] In 1837, the Mexican state of Chihuahua also offered a bounty on Apache scalps, 100 pesos per warrior, 50 pesos per woman, and 25 pesos per child.[48] Harris Worcester wrote: "The new policy attracted a diverse group of men, including Anglos, runaway slaves led by Seminole John Horse, and Indians — Kirker used Delawares and Shawnees; others, such as Terrazas, used Tarahumaras; and Seminole chief Coacoochee led a band of his own people who had fled from Indian Territory."[50]

American Civil War edit

Some scalping incidents occurred during the American Civil War of 1861-1865. For example, Confederate guerrillas led by "Bloody Bill" Anderson were well known for decorating their saddles with the scalps of Union soldiers they had killed.[51]Archie Clement had the reputation of being Anderson's “chief scalper”.

Continued Indian Wars edit

In 1851, the U.S. Army displayed Indian scalps in Stanislaus County, California.

In 1851, the Tehama Massacre occurred in Tehama County, California, wherein U.S. military and citizens razed villages and scalped hundreds of men, women, and children.[52] This attack targeted Native communities specifically, in the villages of Yana, Konkow, Nisenan, Wintu, Nomlaki, Patwin, Yuki, and Maidu.[53]

Scalping also occurred during the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864, during the American Indian Wars, when a 700-man force of U.S. Army volunteers destroyed the village of Cheyenne and Arapaho in southeastern Colorado Territory, killing and mutilating[54][55] an estimated 70–163 Native American civilians.[56][57][58] An 1867 New York Times article reported that "settlers in a small town in Colorado Territory had recently subscribed $5,000 to a fund ‘for the purpose of buying Indian scalps (with $25 each to be paid for scalps with the ears on)’ and that the market for Indian scalps ‘is not affected by age or sex’." The article noted this behavior was "sanctioned" by the U.S. federal government, and was modeled on patterns the U.S. had begun a century earlier in the "American East".[59]: 206 

From one writer's point of view, it was a "uniquely American" innovation that the use of scalp bounties in the wars against indigenous societies "became an indiscriminate killing process that deliberately targeted Indian non-combatants (including women, children, and infants), as well as warriors."[59]: 204  Some American states such as Arizona paid bounty for enemy Native American scalps.[60]

Image gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Griffin, Anastasia M. (2008). Georg Friederici's (1906) "Scalping and Similar Warfare Customs in America" with a Critical Introduction. ProQuest. ISBN 9780549562092 p.18.
  2. ^ Mensforth, Robert P.; Chacon, Richard J. Chacon; Dye, David H. (2007). "Human Trophy Taking in Eastern North America During the Archaic Period: The Relationship to Warfare and Social Complexity". The Taking and Displaying of Human Body Parts as Trophies by Amerindians. Springer Science + Business Media. p. 225.
  3. ^ Ahlström, Torbjörn (2008). "An early example of scalping from the Mesolithic cemetery Skateholm, Sweden". Archäologie und Geschichte im Ostseeraum. 3: 59–66.
  4. ^ Rying, Bent (1981). Denmark: Introduction, Prehistory (1 ed.). Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. p. 30.
  5. ^ Larsson, ÅM (2009). Breaking and Making Bodies in Pots. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala Universitet. p. 277.
  6. ^ Griffin, Anastasia M. (editor); Frederici, Georg (2008). "Critical Introduction". Scalping and Similar Warfare Customs in America. p. 180. ISBN 9780549562092.
  7. ^ Herodotus; De Selincourt, Aubrey (translator) (2003). The Histories. London: Penguin Books. pp. 260–261. ISBN 9780140449082.
  8. ^ Marcellinus, Ammianus; Yonge, C.D. (1862). Roman History, Book XXXI, II. London: Bohn. p. 22.
  9. ^ Domenech, Abbe Emmanuel (1860). Seven Years' Residence in the Great Deserts of North America, Vol. 2. London: Longman Green. p. 358.
  10. ^ Crouch, Jace. The Judicial Punishment of Delcavatio in Visigothic Spain: A Proposed Solution based on Isidore of Seville and the Lex Visigothorum. pp. 1–5. and Abstract.
  11. ^ "V2*Vault Shutdown | Canvas @ Yale". Archived from the original on 2017-08-20. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  12. ^ Duncan, John (1847). Travels in Western Africa in 1845 & 1846, Comprising a Journey from Whydah, through the Kingdom of Dahomey, to Adofoodia, in the Interior, Vol. I. London: Richard Bentley. pp. 233–234.
  13. ^ Duncan, John (1847). Travels in Western Africa in 1845 & 1846, Comprising a Journey from Whydah, through the Kingdom of Dahomey, to Adofoodia, in the Interior, Vol. II. London: Richard Bentley. pp. 274–275.
  14. ^ "Battledetective Case Files".
  15. ^ Stark, Miriam (2008). Archaeology of Asia. Wiley. p. 157."Skeletons with traits of scalping have also been found at Jiangou in southern Hebei (Longshan culture) and Dasima in Henan (Erlitou culture), suggesting that violent behavior became widespread in the Central Plains during the Longshan and Erlitou periods (Chen 2000; Yan 1982)."
  16. ^ Murphy, Eileen; Gokhman, Ilia; Chistov, Yuri; Barkova, Ludmilla (2002). "Prehistoric Old World Scalping: New Cases from the Cemetery of Aymyrlyg, South Siberia". American Journal of Archaeology. 106 (1): 1–10. doi:10.2307/507186. JSTOR 507186. S2CID 161894416.
  17. ^ "Sikh Martyrs – Bhai Taru Singh". Search Sikhism. Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2007.
  18. ^ Fowler, Marsha; Kirkham, Sheryl; Sawatzky, Rick; Taylor, Elizabeth (2011). Religion, Religious Ethics and Nursing. New: Springer Publishing Company. p. 261. ISBN 9780826106643.
  19. ^ French, Louis (2000). Martyrdom in the Sikh Tradition: Playing the "Game of Love". Oxford University Press. p. 146. ISBN 9780195649475.
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  21. ^ Williams, Joseph. "The Origins of Scalping". Retrieved 3 January 2024.
  22. ^ Burton, Richard F. (February 1864). Anthropological Review, Vol. 2, No. 4. pp. 50–51.
  23. ^ Griffin, Anastasia M. (editor); Friederici, Georg (2008). "Scalping and Similar Warfare Customs in America". pp. 63–70. ISBN 9780549562092.
  24. ^ a b Axtell, James; Sturtevant, William C. (1980). "The Unkindest Cut, or Who Invented Scalping". The William and Mary Quarterly. 37 (3): 451–472. doi:10.2307/1923812. ISSN 0043-5597. JSTOR 1923812.
  25. ^ a b c Miller, Elizabeth (1994). "Evidence for Prehistoric Scalping in Northeastern Nebraska". Plains Anthropologist. 39 (148): 211–219. doi:10.1080/2052546.1994.11931728. ISSN 0032-0447. JSTOR 25669265.
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  29. ^ a b Foulds, Diane E. (2000-12-31). "Who Scalped Whom?". The Boston Globe. B10. pp. 36–37. Archived from the original on 2023-01-13. Retrieved 2023-01-13.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) CS1 maint: location (link)
  30. ^ a b c d e Tucker, Spencer C. (2011). The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607–1890. ABC-CLIO, LLC. p. 708. ISBN 978-1851096978.
  31. ^ "The Jesuit Relations: Index". 11 August 2014. Archived from the original on 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  32. ^ Grenier. 2005. p.39
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  35. ^ Grenier, John. First Way of War. p. 39.
  36. ^ Williamson, William. The History of the State of Maine, Vol 2. pp. 117–118.
  37. ^ Drake, Samuel Gardner; Shirley, William (1870). A particular history of the five years French and Indian War in New England ... J. Munsell. p. 134. ISBN 9780917890420.
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  39. ^ John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. Oklahoma University Press. 2008
  40. ^ "Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society". Halifax. 1878. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
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  43. ^ "Declaration of War". 7 February 2014. Archived from the original on 7 February 2014.
  44. ^ Arthur, Elizabeth (1979). "Hamilton, Henry". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. IV (1771–1800) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  45. ^ Kelsey pg. 303
  46. ^ "Journals of the military expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six nations of Indians in 1779; with records of centennial celebrations; prepared pursuant to chapter 361, laws of the state of New York, of 1885". Auburn, N.Y., Knapp, Peck & Thomson, Printers. 1887. Archived from the original on 2016-03-22. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
  47. ^ Peter R. Silver Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (New York) WW Norton 2009) 246
  48. ^ a b Haley, James L. (1981). Apaches: A History and Culture Portrait. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 51. ISBN 0806129786.
  49. ^ History Of The North Mexican States And Texas, Vol. II 1801-1889, San Francisco, The History Company, Publishers,1889, Chapter 24
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  51. ^ "William "Bloody Bill" Anderson . Jesse James . WGBH American Experience". Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
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  53. ^ "Tehama Massacre (California)". Investing in Native Communities. Retrieved 2022-05-04.
  54. ^ Jackson, Helen (1994). A Century of Dishonor. United States: Indian Head Books. p. 344. ISBN 1-56619-167-X.
  55. ^ Hoig, Stan (2005) [1974]. The Sand Creek Massacre. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-8061-1147-6.
  56. ^ Brown, Dee (2001) [1970]. "War Comes to the Cheyenne". Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Macmillan. pp. 86–87. ISBN 978-0-8050-6634-0.
  57. ^ "THE WEST - Who is the Savage?". Archived from the original on 2016-07-26. Retrieved 2016-07-28.
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  59. ^ a b Kakel, Carroll P. (2011). The American West and the Nazi East, A Comparative and Interpretive Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan.
  60. ^ World of the American Indian, by Jules B. Billard, National Geographic Society; First Printing edition (1974), Washington DC

Bibliography edit

External links edit