Decapitation or beheading is the act of cutting off the head from the rest of the body of a living thing. Beheading usually means that the removal of the head is deliberate. It is generally done during an execution with an axe, sword, or guillotine. If the removal of the head is an accident or unintentional, it is called decapitation. It can happen because of an auto accident, explosion, factory accident, a mistake during a hanging or some other violent accident.
Decapitation is always fatal, that is, the result is always death. This is because it causes all other organs to stop receiving nervous signals from the brain that are needed to function, while the supply of blood, and therefore oxygen, to the brain itself is also cut off.
Decapitation can also describe the removal of a head from a body that is already dead. In these situations, the head is usually a trophy or a public display of warning.
Beheading was the usual means of death penalty in Scandinavian countries in the past. Noblemen were beheaded with a sword, commoners with an axe. The last execution by beheading in Finland occurred in 1822, when a farmhand Tahvo Putkonen was beheaded for murder. The last beheading in Sweden occurred in 1910, when Johan Andersson-Ander was guillotined for murder. Also Germany, France and Belgium favoured beheading in the past. In those countries was carried out by guillotine.
The executioner who performs beheadings is called a headsman.
History[change | change source]
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has had centuries of public beheadings, but in 2013 is considering firing squads as an alternative means of execution.
Famous people who have been beheaded[change | change source]
Biblical[change | change source]
- John the Baptist in the Gospels
- Holofernes in the Book of Judith
- Apostle James, traditionally
- Apostle Paul, traditionally
China[change | change source]
England[change | change source]
- Anne Boleyn (1536)
- Catherine Howard (1542)
- Lady Jane Grey (1554)
- Mary, Queen of Scots (1587)
- Sir Walter Raleigh (1618)
- Charles I, King of England and Scotland (1649)
- Blackbeard (1718)
The Colonial Americas[change | change source]
- Panama: Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1519)
Frisia[change | change source]
French Revolution[change | change source]
Iraq[change | change source]
- Shosei Koda
- Kim Sun-il
- Kenneth Bigley
- Nick Berg
- Eugene Armstrong
- Jack Hensley
- Maher Kemal
- Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti
Switzerland[change | change source]
- Wildhans von Breitenlandenberg and 61 companions following the siege of Greifensee during the Old Zürich War (1444).