Five skulls with special
cutting traces, dating back to around 4,000 years ago, were
found in China's remote areas, suggesting that ancient Chinese,
similar to the American Indian, participated in the practice
"The bloodcurdling practice was
popular in the history of the northern area of Eurasian continent
and American Indian culture, but it was seldom recorded in
Chinese documents," said Chen Xingcan, a researcher with
the Institute of Archaeology under the Chinese Academy of
The skulls were discovered near Handan,
Hebei Province, and Wuzhi County, Henan Province, respectively.
"By comparison, the traces on the
two skulls found in Henan are more analogous with the traces
left by scalping practice by Indians," said Chen.
The cutting traces on the skulls were
probably made by blunt stone tools, Chen presumed.
According to researchers of American
Indian culture, not all the cutting traces on skulls were
left by scalping. Only the cutting trace, which was in a circle,
especially around the top of the skull, can be explained as
The process of scalping was that a person
would cut through the scalp, aponeurosis, and periosteum,
and reached the skull, and then the scalp could be easily
peeled off from the skull.
It is usually believed that scalping
was executed on a dead person, but some research suggested
that it could also be executed on living person, said Chen.
So far, the scalping evidence in China
is the oldest found in the Eurasian continent, which was as
ancient as the earliest scalping trace in America, dating
back to BC2500 to BC1000. Archaeologists are still not certain
about the origin and spreading routes of the custom.
American researchers argued that there
are about three purposes of Indian scalping. First, it was
relevant to the religion. The peeled off scalps were dedicated
to super natural gods. Second, the scalp represents a person's
life. Scalping an enemy could appease the hatred of the dead
relatives and friends. Third, the practice of scalping symbolized
the courage and strength of the person who won the conflict.
The Indian scalping custom emerged with
the fights between groups, which means social inequality was
rooted as early as that ancient time, said Chen.
However, the scalping practice in China
happened in a society in which classes were differentiated.
Archaeologists cannot explain the social and cultural meanings
about scalping in China and its relation with similar discoveries
in central Asia until more evidence can be found, Chen added.