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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.

When considering headhunting in isolation and without any context, and given our own backgrounds, most of us would be hard pressed to ever genuinely and completely dissociate the practice of headhunting from urder?in some sense.

Boas was on to something, and Millerís ideas strike me as complimentary and mutually reinforcing. While Boas only mentions the personal creative satisfaction of the artisan him or herself, the idea that creative virtuosity could serve as an appeal to prospective mates, seems like a fairly reasonable extension of his conclusions on art motives? and one that could reinforce the artisans own pleasure in the aesthetically creative act.

A final comment or two on head hunting? for the majority of us who will read this discussion, I think it is safe to say that if this phenomenon is of interest at all, then at most we may possibly gain an intellectual understanding of why various societies might indulge in headhunting, but our own deeply ingrained cultural praxis will prevent us from ever looking at headhunting the way someone who is an autochthonous member of a headhunting society might.

The lawful or unlawful context is socially determined and the implication is that while murder is always killing, killing is not always murder. This is in no way a revelation, but it seems few ever pause to consider it all.

Regarding other recent comments in this thread, my own interpretation of some of Udo remarks was that he may have meant to draw attention to this sort of cultural/moral disparity across cultures.

I just like to add that in the seminal work, rimitive Art? By Boas, which was first published in 1927 I believe, Boas repeatedly cites the pleasure of virtuosity and the satisfaction of aesthetic creativity as one of the principal motivations for creating art.

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.

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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.