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mongoose29
05-07-2016, 07:48 AM
THIS POST IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! Even I am scared of the responses I might get. No really, I can't believe I'm posting this.

I'm looking for some information on scalping. (Ewww!) Specifically, one of my characters scalps a dead body about 3-5 days after death. The body has been outside in warm, arid conditions. I understand the basics of scalping (cutting, pulling), but I'm wondering how the feel and look of it might be slightly different for a several-days-dead body.

Maybe there's a doctor out there who could speculate? I certainly hope no one will report-back with first-hand information...

Katharine Tree
05-07-2016, 08:39 AM
This is a WAG and I am not an MD.

I have read about the act of scalping, and apparently there is a membrane between the scalp and the skull that you have to cut through and get your fingers under so you can pull the scalp off. After several days this membrane might have broken down somewhat, making it easier to cut, and the scalp easier to pull away from the skull.

A serious question is whether this body is desiccating (in a dry environment) or putrefying (in a damp environment). If it's desiccating then everything will be somewhat dry and tough. If it's putrefying and the environment is wet enough, I bet the scalp would tear into pieces when pulled away.

Everything I've ever read talks about how surprisingly thick the human scalp is. I guess on the crown of the head it can be nearly half an inch. Certainly a solid handful.

Gotta say, I'm eagerly awaiting GeorgeK's answer to this question ...

Twick
05-07-2016, 11:09 PM
Not an expert, but I've stayed at a Holiday Inn Express while reading some Anne Rule. In one of Rule's stories, she describes a body that has been lying in the Florida undergrowth for several days, and how it looks like there's a wig several feet away. It's actually the body's scalp, pulled away by small animals. This is apparently not uncommon in bodies left in the wild. I've heard of other cases where the hair of the victim was found but not the body itself, having been separated by natural causes and animal actions.

So, my WAG is that the scalp will be quite easy to remove after 3-5 days, much easier than if the victim had just died.

Remember, of course, that most of your readers will be unfamiliar with scalping either a new or long-dead corpse.

WeaselFire
05-08-2016, 09:00 AM
Assuming it's left in the wild and not a hermetically sealed environment, predation will occur. Provided the scalp is still intact, slitting the forehead and pulling will likely result in tearing. Severing the scalp, as in skinning a deer, would allow a more intact scalp.

In the traditional scalping, a knife is used to slice across the forehead and often around the skull in the general shape of a beanie. Then the skin is grabbed and simply pulled off. Not much holds the scalp to the skull. There's actually not a large blood loss and many who were scalped have lived on to full lives. The native American tradition has its origins in "counting coup", in which a warrior would dare to ride up to their enemy and touch them with a stick, the coup stick, and ride away unscathed. Far more status points than killing an enemy.

By the way, scalps are rarely more than a 1/4 inch and often thinner. When they dry out, they look like a hairy, shriveled paper sack and don't hold any shape. Unless tanned or preserved, they tend to fall apart in a relatively short time.

Jeff

GeorgeK
05-08-2016, 08:34 PM
This is a WAG and I am not an MD.

I have read about the act of scalping, and apparently there is a membrane between the scalp and the skull that you have to cut through and get your fingers under so you can pull the scalp off. After several days this membrane might have broken down somewhat, making it easier to cut, and the scalp easier to pull away from the skull.

A serious question is whether this body is desiccating (in a dry environment) or putrefying (in a damp environment). If it's desiccating then everything will be somewhat dry and tough. If it's putrefying and the environment is wet enough, I bet the scalp would tear into pieces when pulled away.

Everything I've ever read talks about how surprisingly thick the human scalp is. I guess on the crown of the head it can be nearly half an inch. Certainly a solid handful.

Gotta say, I'm eagerly awaiting GeorgeK's answer to this question ...Actually you beat me to it. Congratulations.

The only thing to add is critters, but the scalp is one of the last things to go. Critters are going to go for the easier to get to stuff that has higher nutritional value. If there are a lot of critters then the scalp could be gone already, but typically on our pig heads you'd still find a scalp up to a few weeks. One time a flock of 30 Black Vultures showed up and the process was much faster than usual.

mongoose29
05-08-2016, 10:36 PM
Wow, thanks all. I'm amazed that there are a number of you who have read up on this---very helpful to me!

Now, to start working in some critters, as GeorgeK suggests....

WeaselFire
05-10-2016, 07:35 AM
Wow, thanks all. I'm amazed that there are a number of you who have read up on this---very helpful to me!

Not really. Had an uncle who wrote textbooks about and cataloged the wild west era and the Indians of the northern plains. Indian rituals and Colt revolvers were his specialties. :)

Jeff

King Neptune
05-10-2016, 05:11 PM
Wow, thanks all. I'm amazed that there are a number of you who have read up on this---very helpful to me!


But it's so much lighter than taking the whole head, and they are easier to store.

GeorgeK
05-10-2016, 05:23 PM
Not really. Had an uncle who wrote textbooks about and cataloged the wild west era and the Indians of the northern plains. Indian rituals and Colt revolvers were his specialties. :)

JeffYeah, Jeff's right. It's not exactly research. Some of us actually lived it or personally knew those who did.

GeorgeK
05-10-2016, 05:25 PM
But it's so much lighter than taking the whole head, and they are easier to store.And it's proof of a kill seeing as scalping is a non-survivable injury for more than a few days

King Neptune
05-10-2016, 06:18 PM
And it's proof of a kill seeing as scalping is a non-survivable injury for more than a few days

Actually, scalping is quite survivable, but odds are good that a scalp came from a corpse. If you want a non-survivable injury by which one might prove that one did kill and thus collect the bounty, then collecting phalli is a much better way. This also is survivable, but only with pretty darned good care.

GeorgeK
05-10-2016, 06:27 PM
Ah
Actually, scalping is quite survivable,.No. That's simply wrong.
Actually, scalping is quite survivable, but odds are good that a scalp came from a corpse. If you want a non-survivable injury by which one might prove that one did kill and thus collect the bounty, then collecting phalli is a much better way. This also is survivable, but only with pretty darned good care.
Depends on the scalp. More than an inch wide and most humans can not fill in that defect by secondary intent. That's why and partially when we do skin grafts.

Scalping means exposed bone and not enough skin to cover it. Pick your cause of death. Staph? Strep? Other infection? Desiccation? No, only the most meticulous or the most incompetent scalper won't kill their victim.

King Neptune
05-10-2016, 11:00 PM
Ah No. That's simply wrong.
Depends on the scalp. More than an inch wide and most humans can not fill in that defect by secondary intent. That's why and partially when we do skin grafts.

Scalping means exposed bone and not enough skin to cover it. Pick your cause of death. Staph? Strep? Other infection? Desiccation? No, only the most meticulous or the most incompetent scalper won't kill their victim.

https://www.google.com/search?q=surviving+scalping&biw=1600&bih=763&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwj6zIHpldDMAhVBej4KHX4wA7EQsAQIMQ
Photos of survivors
https://nativeheritageproject.com/2014/05/06/surviving-a-scalping/

But it does depend on the style of scalping. There were some groups that just took rather narrow strips, less than two inches wide, while others took patches about four or five inches across. I think I once read of someone having been scalped more than once.

Katharine Tree
05-10-2016, 11:04 PM
A picture every writer of Westerns should see: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-IM-OPs2yvro/T51uh-jUHAI/AAAAAAAAKZk/5MnkpJ8BgT4/s1600/Picture+3.jpg

I'm not saying many people survived. But some did. And from what I've read, one usually scalped a dead body--or a body one sincerely believed to be dead.