Decapitation was an integral part of the complex ritual practices recorded in the palaeographic and archaeological records at the Late Shang (c. 1250–1050 bce) site of Yinxu in Henan Province, China. Although representations of decapitation are often found in societies where the act was carried out, no clear evidence exists for Yinxu, where only a small number of human depictions have been uncovered to date. In this article, I use archaeological data from sacrificial contexts and material culture uncovered during excavations over the past 90 years to investigate the human head as Late Shang elite visual culture. I argue that the dramatic increase in decapitation at Yinxu necessitated the development of a ritually informed process for handling these remains that transformed them into elite objects, while simultaneously pacifying their potentially dangerous post-mortem agency. This research contributes to global comparative studies on the materiality of the human head.