Online Encyclopedia

SCALPING

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 287 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SCALPING, the custom of removing the skin of the skull, with hair attached. Though generally associated with the North American Indians, the practice has been common in Europe, Asia and Africa. The underlying idea, as of similar mutilations of those slain in battle, is the warrior's wish to preserve a portable proof or trophy of his prowess. Scalping was the usual form of mutilation from the earliest times. Herodotus (iv. 64) describes the practice among the Scythians. The Abbe Emmanuel H. D. Domenech (Seven Years' Residence in the Great Desert of North America, ch. 39) quotes the decalvare of the ancient Germans, the capillos et cutem detrahere of the code of the Visigoths, and the Annals of Flodoard, to prove that the Anglo-Saxons and the Franks still scalped about A.U. 879. In Africa it was, and doubtless is, as prevalent as are all barbarous mutilations. Among the North American Indians scalping was always in the nature of a rite. It was common to those tribes east of the Rocky Mountains, in the south-west and upper Columbia; but unknown apparently among the Eskimo, along the north-west coast, and on the Pacific coast west of the Cascade range and the Sierras, except among some few Californian tribes, or here and there in Mexico and southward. Properly the scalp could only be taken after a fair fight; in more recent times there seems to have been no such restriction. To facilitate the operation the braves wore long war-locks or scalping-tufts, as an implied challenge. These locks were braided with bright ribbons or ornamented with a feather. After the successful warrior's return the scalp or scalps captured were dried, mounted and consecrated by a solemn dance. Some tribes hung the scalps to their bridles, others to their shields, while some ornamented with them the outer seams of their leggings. Scalping was some-times adopted by the whites in their wars with the Redskins, and bounties have been offered for scalps several times in American history.
End of Article: SCALPING
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