Shrunken head manufacture

I meant to jump on this earlier but it took me awhile to pull out the resource.

In a different thread the SDMB wanders a little off topic. But I would like to address the original column question: How are shrunken heads made?
Cecil Writes:

In Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki the following is found on the method of head shrinking:
pp.44-45 (in my paperback) Translated into English by F.H. Lyon

The two methods seem quite far apart. Heyerdahl’s account is given second (or third) hand and seems to have a problem or two. Specifically, how do you smash a skull, remove it and still have a face retain its features?

Cecil’s missive follows the lines of taxidermy (skinning tanning etc.). The problem I can see (not being a taxidermist certainly doesn’t help) with this account is the head size. Taxidermy tends to keep things the same size. Where does the shrinking to “one-third the size” come from?

Which account is the more accurate Cecil’s or Heyerdahl’s (:eek: heaven forbid)? Or are both processes acceptable methods to the same (gristly) end?

They’re not mutually exclusive descriptions, but rather two incomplete descriptions emphasizing different parts, with perhaps an error or two in each.

Pulling a DDG, I did a web search on “shrunken heads”. I found , which describes how to make a shrunken head, and then how to make a fake shrunken head using an apple. this site also discusses head shrinking and the Jivaro Indians.

But the best is this site: . It has an actual first hand account of the Jivaro Indians performing a ritual head shrinking after a raid on a neighboring village. It is the source material for the anthropology on the whole phenomenon. F.W. Up De Graff. <i>Head hunters of the Amazon:Seven Years of Exploration and Adventure</i>, New York: Garden City 1925 p. 273-283

You can see from the description given there that Cecil simplified the description by calling “stuffing with hot rocks, then repeating with hot sand over the course of 48 hrs” into “a long process of taxidermy”.

The only thing wrong with Heyerdahl’s description is breaking up the skull, and omitting the pots of water first used to heat the skin.

Am I that famous? :smiley: