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The Rockefeller episode is different of course. Most significantly, this is something of an unsolved mystery. Michael Rockefeller disappeared, and there has never been definitive proof of what happened. A lot of theories have been put forward, some of which seem more plausible than others.

Yet it struck me that headhunting quite often, though not always, occurs in the context of inter-tribal or inter-village warfare. So, would placing headhunting in the context of war mitigate the abhorrence some of us might feel toward the institution of headhunting? Interestingly, it strikes me that for natives of, as Steve P. aptly designated it ?

As I mentioned I tend towards a nature and nurture explanation for a behavior, with a preponderance of weight on social conditioning for the category of behavior in question.

It was then that the famous missionary Rev. James Chalmers and a party of 12 lost their heads and were eaten by Goaribari headhunters. Another missionary reported witnessing over 10,000 skulls in the long houses of Goaribari.

It is rather just to point out what I see as the striking malleability and cultural specificity of moral boundaries and how in cases like the one just mentioned, a few moments can totally change the acceptability of certain actions. While listening to military briefings in the news, often it is explicitly stated that an objective of some operations will be to "capture or kill" the enemy.

Taking heads isn't my cup of tea, but I have less difficulty understanding the cultural bases of doing so than I do of the apparent inhumanity of, say, the Yanamano or (closer to home) of the Nazi movement of the middle third of the 20th century in what might arguably have been the most culturally advanced society in Europe at the end of the 19th century.

One point: mortal combat among animals of the same species is not common. The more usual pattern is stylized or ritualized combat over resources (usually territory), in which one member concedes without being killed or injured.

Of the victim's life that cause us to react or not to their death. Whether it was the American, Michael Rockefeller, or the Solomon Islander named Tombat, the British Missionary Chalmer, or Limbang the Dayak ?reaction on an emotional level has more to do with what we know about that person than their nationality, race or religion per se.

In some places headhunting definitively faded out long ago, in other parts of the world it was a practice that lingered as common place until the mid-20th century at least. I think it is fascinating how utterly repugnant such practices are to some societies, while conversely in others, they were not only condoned and encouraged but viewed as an absolutely essential component of community well being.

I imagine Steve P. is familiar with this book, but for others?in a nut shell, the general idea is that those individuals who excelled in artistic pursuits and were witty and creative rendered themselves more desirable in the eyes of prospective mates.

To many of us, it doesn't matter a bit whether the victim is "us" (by this, I guess you mean people from the more technologically developed part of the world) or not. Killing others is disturbing and difficult to accept, even when it is for cultural reasons.

I also think that describing the death penalty as "Killing people for reasons the government is actually forbidding..." is a description that misses the mark, especially in democratic societies in which the government serves at the pleasure of the governed.

Technologically developed areas", the socio-cultural outlook does seem to allow much of the populace to dissociate causing deaths in a war context from urder? This relativity of perception is noteworthy.

Of course, people from outside headhunting cultures, that become the victims of headhunting will always have a degree of sensational interest attached to their stories just because of the relative novelty of the event.
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