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The sort of most dramatic of the other plausible scenarios is that he became the victim of Asmat headhunters and all that implies. If that was how it happened, the bitter irony naturally is that the young Rockefeller was passionate about the area and had a great interest and respect for a smart people and culture.

In any case, as you say, tales of headhunting and cannibalism can be quite jarring. The really astonishing part of it in my opinion however, is just how relatively common such practices were around the planet.

While the Chalmer incident left a powerful impression on the mind of missionaries, the Rockefeller incident is the one that tends to linger most in the thoughts of those of us who are interested in the art and culture of this area. This latter event happened in the Asmat region, which is West through the Torres Straight and up along the coast of West Papua (Indonesian side) in relation to Goaribari Island where the Gope board that started this thread originated.

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.

Much to the chagrin of some modern evangelical types, she offered these words to the descendants of those who executed the missionaries, I think my ancestor was wrong to come in and try to change you.

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.

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.

I'm afraid the off the cuff choice of using the adjective ortalto qualify combat may have created an unfortunate distraction that has diverted the essential intent of the comment.

In any case, this has lead to other interesting tangential topics and sources. I see that the book you suggest, On Aggression, is by Konrad Lorenz. I looked it up on Amazon and it seems like a very worthwhile and thought provoking read.

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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.