© 2010

Headhunting and Colonialism

Anthropology and the Circulation of Human Skulls in the Portuguese Empire, 1870–1930


Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Introduction

    1. Ricardo Roque
      Pages 1-14
  3. Encounters with Parasites

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 15-15
    2. Ricardo Roque
      Pages 17-39
    3. Ricardo Roque
      Pages 40-69
  4. Skulls and Histories

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 101-101
    2. Ricardo Roque
      Pages 127-151
  5. Conclusion

    1. Ricardo Roque
      Pages 216-225
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 226-342

About this book


An exploration of headhunting and the collection of heads for European museums in the context of colonial wars, from the 1870s to the 1930s. The book offers a new understanding of the mutually dependent interaction between indigenous peoples and colonial powers, and how collected remains became regarded as objects of wider significance.


anthropology bibliography colonialism empire Europe

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonPortugal

About the authors

RICARDO ROQUE is Research Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, Australia. He works on the history and anthropology of colonialism, human sciences, and cross-cultural contact in the Portuguese-speaking world. He has published extensively on crime and rebellion in British India, including Thuggee: Banditry and the British in Early Nineteenth-Century India (2007) and The Great Fear of 1857: Rumours, Conspiracies and the Making of the Indian Uprising (2010).

Bibliographic information


'The scanty information about the skulls was not a limitation but a challenge for the Portuguese historian Ricardo Roque, who performs detective work of the skulls' trajectory to explore Portuguese colonialism, violence, collecting practices and anthropology.'

- Fenneke Sisling, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde

'Roque's Headhunting and Colonialism provides a stimulating and well-conceptualized read. His integration of primary research with theoretical outlooks throws light on historical topics that have generally been neglected in Pacific research. Portugal and Portuguese colonialism in East Timor have received only marginal consideration in historical research. His book thus figures as an important contribution to the fields of colonialism and ethno-geography in the Pacific.'

- Rainer F. Buschmann, The Bulletin of the Pacific Circle

'The book is particularly timely in that it provides an excellent case study of the historical processes that may confuse efforts to determine the provenance of human remains, reminding us of the need for close investigation of provenance before any research or repatriation activities are commenced. [ ] It should be recommended reading for anyone involved in the museum management of human remains and, in particular, for those involved in repatriation.'

- Michael Pickering, The Journal of Pacific History