From Academic Kids

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Native American Big Mouth Spring with decorated scalp lock on right shoulder.
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Robert McGee, scalped as a child by Sioux Chief Little Turtle in 1864.

Scalping is the act of removing the scalp, usually with the hair, as a trophy of war. Scalping is usually associated with frontier warfare in North America, and was practiced by Native Americans and white frontiersmen over centuries of violent conflict.

Scalping was practiced by the ancient Scythians of Eurasia. Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote of the Scythians in 440 BC: "The Scythian soldier scrapes the scalp clean of flesh and softening it by rubbing between the hands, uses it thenceforth as a napkin. The Scyth is proud of these scalps and hangs them from his bridle rein; the greater the number of such napkins that a man can show, the more highly is he esteemed among them. Many make themselves cloaks by sewing a quantity of these scalps together."

According to historian James Axtell, there is no evidence that the early European explorers and settlers in the Americas were familiar with this practice of the Scythians, or that they ever taught scalping to Native Americans. There is clear evidence, says Axtell, that the practice of scalping existed long before Europeans arrived, primarily in North America. The theory that Native Americans learned the practice of scalping from Europeans first appeared in the 1960s and is still professed by some writers and activists, but this belief is not supported by most academic scholars.

It is believed that contact with Europeans widened the practice of scalping among Native Americans, since some Euro-American governments encouraged the practice among their Native American allies during times of war. For example, in the American Revolutionary War, Henry Hamilton, the British Lieutenant-Governor of Canada, was known by American Patriots as the "hair-buyer general" because it was believed he encouraged and paid his Native American allies to scalp American settlers. When Hamilton was captured in the war by the Americans, he was treated as a war criminal instead of a prisoner of war because of this. However, both Native Americans and American frontiersmen frequently scalped their victims in this era.

Euro-American governments also sometimes issued scalp bounties to be paid to whites for scalping Native Americans. For example, in 1706 the governor of Pennsylvania offered 130 pieces of eight for the scalp of any Indian male over twelve years of age and 50 pieces of eight for a woman's scalp. Because it was impossible for those who paid the bounty to determine the sex, and sometimes the age, of the victim from the scalp alone, killing non-combatant Native Americans, including women and children, became a way to make money. Another example: in the French and Indian War, a scalp bounty was issued by Pennsylvania for the Lenape war leader Shingas.

Alternate meanings

Scalping can also refer to the slang term for buying tickets to a public event such as a musical concert, show, or sporting event and then reselling them with the aim of making a profit, particularly a large one. It is often illegal, though it happens regularly, particularly with popular events. The person buying and re-selling the tickets is referred to as a "scalper". In British English such a person is called a "ticket tout".

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