Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Headhunting is in modern time is prohibited worldwide. However, it is a practice that has taken place during the pre-colonial era. It happens in Japan, China, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines, ancient Europe etc. One that really stuns the world is ……THE SHUAR – The Headhunter Tribes in Amazon Basin.

The Shuar is a fierce warrior tribes that practice headhunting. All boys who had turn into man once they had their puberty would be lead by the experience elderly to go for headhunting to display manhood. They hunt for their enemy, killed and beheaded them, particularly those that invaded their territory.

The Shuar lives in rainforests and savannas of the Amazon. They are so fierce that non had taken them as colony. They believe that by stinking their enemy’s head, it blocks enemy’s spirit from using its powers to harm them back and they can attain the power of victim. The mouth and eyes are being sewed to prevent the spirit from escaping. It also served as a way of warning those enemies.

Trade in shrunken heads
In the 19 century, some westerner had managed to develop more trust and friendly relationship with the Shuar and manage to trade freely the Shrunken Human Heads. The Shrink Heads (known as Tsantsa) are being displayed at home as rare art piece or to show off to friends in dinner feasts. A stop was put to this when the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments worked together to outlaw the traffic in heads.

Currently, replica shrunken heads made from leather are manufactured for tourist as ornaments.

The skull was removed from the head from the back of the head. Internal flesh was removed. Red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids and sewed them shut. The mouth was held and sewn shut. The Shuar will hold the hair of the head and boiled them in hot water. Water is hot but not boiling as boiling water will leads to hair falling off from the skull. It will then be dried with hot rocks and sand placing in the head. Preparer will mold the head to retain its human feature. Some decorative beads and items may be added to the head.

Shrunken head
(Courtesy to Science Museum, London)

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