But beheadings are hardly a thing of the past; in fact in some places they are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Though most Americans are unaware of it, many beheadings take place very near the United States, in Mexico. As Will Grant noted in a BBC News story,
This month has been perhaps the worst in terms of decapitations. In the past 10 days alone, there have been an unprecedented 81 beheaded bodies discovered in the country. In early May, 14 decapitated bodies were found in Nuevo Laredo, just over the border from Texas. Last week, 18 bodies and severed heads were left in two mini-vans near Lake Chapala, an area popular with tourists in western Mexico. Finally, in one of the most shocking incidents of its kind since the current drug war began, 49 headless and mutilated bodies were left in plastic bags on a road outside the industrial city of Monterrey.The idea of execution by decapitation is bizarre and horrific, though for millennia public beheadings around the world were fairly common. It's only in modern times that cutting a person's head off has come to be considered barbaric.
In centuries past beheading was actually preferable to other common forms of execution (such as being burned alive or disemboweled). In early England beheading was considered a noble, and even honorable, death. Nigel Cawthorne, author of Public Executions (2006, Capella Press) notes that "Hanging was usually reserved for the lower classes."