An Overview of Forensic Trophy Skull Analysis in Montana

Author(s): Katherine Baca

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Retaining a skeletal element, especially a skull, whether it be for ancestor veneration, social memory, or as a trophy, is a common practice throughout human history. Keeping a cranium can reflect a lot of information about cultural beliefs concerning death, war, and victory at specific points in time. It is more common than one might think to come across these "trophy skulls" in archaeological and forensic contexts. Most often, they come to us, as Forensic Anthropologists, through a Medical Examiner’s lab, usually under questionable or unknown circumstances. This poster reviews three separate cases of "trophy skulls" in Montana, including the findings of the biological profile analyses and the attempts to reconcile police reports and oral histories in order to reconstruct the life histories of the unknown individuals. The term of "trophy skull" is also approached from an anthropological viewpoint and an argument made for changing the terminology associated with these remains in an effort to better describe the likely circumstances of their creation.

Cite this Record

An Overview of Forensic Trophy Skull Analysis in Montana. Katherine Baca. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449383)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -123.97; min lat: 37.996 ; max long: -101.997; max lat: 46.134 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25259