Philobiblon: European headhunters

Friday, February 11, 2005

European headhunters

For those who still make claims of European moral supremacy: did you know there were "native headhunters" across Europe in the Iron Age?

Browsing through Southern France: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, by Henry Cleere, I came across what he calls the 'severed head' cult.

He says across the region sculptures of "what are indisputably human heads severed are found their bodies" are found, with some of the best examples at Entrement, as even the Tourist Office somewhat reluctantly admits.

There's also documentary evidence, with the Greek scholar Posidonius, via Strabo ...

"There is also that custom, barbarous and exotic, which attends most of the northern tribes...when they depart from the battle they hang the heads of their enemies from the necks or their horses, and when they have brought them home, nail the spectacle to the entrance of their houses. At any rate Posidonius says that himself saw this spectacle in many places, and that, although he first loathed it, afterwards through his familiarity with it, he could bear it calmly." Strabo IV, 4,5. Speaking of the Gauls." From this website which links it to stone carvings across Europe, although many of these are not necessarily "dead" heads.

Cleere notes that Strabo has, however, archaeological support, with "the discovery in excavations at the oppidium of La Cloche (Bouches-du-Rhone) where human skulls were found that appeared to have been mounted over the main gate". (p. 128)

Which was, of course, just what was done with "traitor's" heads over London Bridge many centuries later.

A tag:


Blogger melinama said...

I linked to this post, hopefully a few collectors of morbid trivia will come by.

2/15/2005 11:51:00 am  

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