Most people associate scalping with the natives of North America, but scalping is an ancient if grisly tradition. In the 5th century BC, Herodotus reported the Scythians, a nomadic people of Iranian origin, scalped their enemies as proof of a warrior's prowess (Before scalping became fashionable, warriors just hacked off the whole head).

Other races that practiced scalping were the Persians, Visigoths, Anglo-Saxons, and Francs. Scalping in North America was seen increasingly as European settlers colonized the continent and fought amongst themselves. It was practiced by many Indian tribes, though the natives also learned it from the Europeans, often adopting the practice as a means of revenge. Scalping saw its heyday during the colonial wars. French-Canadians paid extremely well for scalps, whether belonging to white or red men. Scalping in North America was seen in almost every Indian war until 1875.


People were scalped while wounded or dying. Frenchman, Captain Pierre Pouchot, described in his memoirs how the native American scalped his enemy: "As soon as the man is felled, they run up to him, thrust their knee in between his shoulder blades, seize a tuft of hair in one hand &, with their knife in the other, cut around the skin of the head & pull the whole piece away." The scalp was usually dried and preserved, and kept as a trophy.

There were people who survived scalping, with a greater chance of survival for those who had smaller portions of skin removed. Overall though, surviving a scalping was a hit or miss scenario, and even those who survived often died later of infections.

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