right|thumb|300px|The Beheading of Saint Paul
. Painting by Enrique Simonet in 1887
thumb|Beheadings in a painting from Jean Froissart|Froissart's Chronicles
, beginning of the 15th century
thumb|Depiction of an Ethiopian Emperor executing a number of people, 18th century
(from Latin, caput
, meaning head) is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading
typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine. An executioner carrying out decapitations is called a headsman
. Accidental decapitation can be the result of an explosion, car or industrial accident, improperly administered execution by hanging or other violent injury. Suicide by decapitation is rare, but not unknown.
Decapitation is quickly fatal to humans and most animals as brain death occurs within seconds without circulating oxygenated blood. However, some animals (such as cockroaches) can survive decapitation, and die not because of the loss of the head directly, but rather because of starvation. Although head transplantation by the reattachment of blood vessels has been successful with other animals, a fully functional reattachment of a severed human head (including repair of the spinal cord, muscles, and other critically important tissues) has not yet been achieved.
The word decapitation
can also refer, on occasion, to the removal of the head from a body that is already dead. This might be done to take the head as a trophy, for public display, to make the deceased more difficult to identify, for cryonics or for other reasons.
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