Shrunken-Heads

“At the Field Museum, I saw two shrunken heads that were kept on display. They were wrinkled but well preserved, each the size of my palm, their eyes and mouths sewn shut, just as I would have expected. They appeared to be of European extraction: The man had a small goatee, like a conquistador; the female had flowing red hair. I stared at them for a long time (until my mother pulled me away), feeling – with the morbid glee of a young boy – as if I had stumbled upon some sort of cosmic joke.”

B. Obama, Dreams from my Father

The Jivaros of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian rainforest were the only South American tribe not conquered by the Spanish or the Incas.  Of course they are historically known as the warrior tribe that shrunk heads. Remember the George Pal flick The Naked Jungle, starring Charlton Heston battling marabunta ants? We see a shrunken head in that film.

Shrunken heads historically existed. There used to be a collection at Chicago’s Field Museum, but they were pulled. Gruesome stuff.  I loved going to that museum —mummies, shrunken heads, the lions that ate people, bones and fossils.  Shrunken heads are now considered illegal to possess.  A few year’s ago I saw one for sale at an antique store.  I’m fairly convinced it was made out of sawdust, goat skin and hair, but maybe I’m wrong.

Here’s a few links on the matter.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1414460

http://www.interestingideas.com/update/field-museum-shrunken-heads/

http://archive.fieldmuseum.org/research_collections/ask_scientist.htm#shrunken%20heads

One Response to “Shrunken-Heads”

  1. Hi- I found your blog because I was looking for images of the shrunken heads that so intrigued Obama that his mother had to drag him away and it gave him morbid glee–
    I saw some in a weird collection of curios in a small town– it freaked me out to find out they were real– and I wasn’t a kid at the time. Nothing of a cosmic joke at all.

    “At the Field Museum, I saw two shrunken heads that were on display. They were wrinkled but well preserved, each the size of my palm, their eyes and mouths sewn shut, just as I should have expected. They appeared to be of European extraction: the man had a small goatee, like a conquistador; the female had flowing red hair. I stared at them for a long time (until my mother pulled me away), feeling with the morbid glee of a young boy—- as if I had stumbled upon some sort of cosmic joke. Not so much as the heads had been shrunk — that I could understand; it was the same idea as eating tiger meat with Lolo**, a form of magic, a taking of control. Rather, the fact these little European faces were here in a glass case, where strangers, perhaps even descendants, might observe the details of their gruesome fate. That no one seemed to think that odd.”

    (** Lolo was Obama’s Indonesian Muslim step father and his mother’s second husband)

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