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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.

The cultural context is fascinating as well, and some of you will be aware that the Goaribari Islanders were notorious warriors. It is reported that Authorities were still confiscating skull trophies in the late 1950. Other infamous incidents have become very well known indeed. For instance the events of April, 1901 are legendary.

I had several friends in various effected areas and they are all safely accounted for to my relief. But, sadly so many and so much has been lost, and while everyone I know directly has turned up safe, there are family and friends of friends who are missing, and at this point Im afraid that hope of good news at this late date is fading.

Yes Steve P, Id agree with your final comments on animal behavior. It is a point well taken and indeed my choice of terminology was imprecise.

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.

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.

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.

Today, sports really out perform art works. People will pay more than $1000 to a ticket of basketball game. And not a lot of people will pay that amount to buy an art work. NBA players seems like to make more money than artists. It's really a pity.

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.

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.

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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.