The Archaeology of Heads


Ad Honorem
Dec 2010
Oregon coastal mountains
The importance of head taking, for trophy, ritual, and magical/mystery purposes, has been common to many societies in the ancient world, and indeed into modern times.

The human head was a common theme in Celtic artwork all over Europe. Heads were important in religious practices, it was believed they conveyed supernatural powers. Severed heads were worth their weight in gold to warriors in battle. The taking of an enemies head in battle was a trophy and proof of ones valor. As a classical writer, Siculus, wrote:

"They cut of the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and carry off as booty, while striking up a paean and singing a song of victory; and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold; thus displaying what is only a barbarous kind of magnanimity, for it is not a sign of nobility to refrain from selling the proofs of one's valor. It is rather true that it is bestial to continue one's hostility....