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The Taking and Displaying of Human Body Parts as Trophies by Amerindians

  • Textbook
  • © 2007


  • Filling the gap in literature on Amerindian human trophy taking, it is remarkable that there has been only one previous (and now dated) scholarly work specifically addressing this topic on a continent-wide basis. This volume will fill the gap in the literature
  • Presents cases of this practice throughout North and South America
  • Demonstrates that evidence of this phenomenon can be found in many other cultures and places in ancient and recent time making it a human proclivity toward ritual violence, not a “Native” one

Part of the book series: Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology (IDCA)

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Table of contents (25 chapters)

  1. North America

  2. Latin America


About this book

The Amerindian (American Indian or Native American – reference to both North and South America) practice of taking and displaying various body parts as trophies has long intrigued both the research community as well as the public. As a subject that is both controversial and politically charged, it has also come under attack as a European colonists’ perspective intended to denigrate native peoples.

What this collection demonstrates is that the practice of trophy-taking predates European contact in the Americas but was also practiced in other parts of the world (Europe, Africa, Asia) and has been practiced prehistorically, historically and up to and including the twentieth century.

This edited volume mainly focuses on this practice in both North and South America. The editors and contributors (which include Native Peoples from both continents) examine the evidence and causes of Amerindian trophy taking as reflected in osteological, archaeological, ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts. Additionally, they present objectively and discuss dispassionately the topic of human proclivity toward ritual violence.


From the reviews:

"The volume edited by Chacon and David Dye is a comprehensive source book on trophy-taking in the Americas. … carefully produced, thoroughly researched, and thoughtfully written, drawing on ethnohistory and archaeology in about equal measure. … essential reading for anyone interested in the archaeology of war and violence." (Elizabeth Arkush, American Antiquity, Vol. 73 (3), 2008)

"This volume of far ahead of many bioarcheological should be the goal of the violence researcher (or any anthropologist for that matter) to not search for a single event that delineates and homogenizes a systematic function of a group (e.g. sacrifice, violence, or warfare) but rather try to understand how people are bound by events and processes that allow for a fluidity of responses to multiple stimuli. This volume moves in that direction by establishing skeletal and taphonomic studies in the Maya region that adhere to a rigorous methodology and that are systematically applied." (Ventura Perez, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, vol. 19 (566-571), 2009).

Editors and Affiliations

  • Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Winthrop University, USA


  • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Memphis, Memphis, USA

    David H. Dye

About the editors

Richard John Chacon is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Winthrop University. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Amazonia among the Yanomamo of Venezuela, the Yora of Peru and the Achuar (Shiwiar) of Ecuador and he has also worked in the Andes with the Otavalo and Cotacachi Indians of Highland Ecuador. His research interests include optimal foraging theory, indigenous subsistence strategies, warfare, belief systems, the evolution of complex societies, ethnohistory and the effects of globalization on indigenous peoples.


David H. Dye is an Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Memphis. He has conduced archaeological research throughout the Southeastern. His research interests include the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Midsouth. He has had a long-term interest in late prehistoric warfare, ritual, and iconography in the Eastern Woodlands.

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