ABCs of Shrunken Heads

0
2003
(Joe Mabel)

Health Editor’s Note: Now we know how to shrink a head….Carol

How Does One Actually Shrink a Head?

by Rose Eveleth Smithsonian.com

Shrunken heads are a key part of the “scary tribal people” setup. And some cultures did, in fact, create miniature heads for religious and spiritual purposes. But how does one take a regular sized human skull and miniaturize it?

The process is gruesome, according to Today I Found Out. First, the skin and hair had to be separated from the skull to allow them to shrink at different rates. Then, the eyelids were sewn shut and the mouth was stuck closed with a peg. And for the actual shrinking, the heads were put in a big pot and boiled for a very specific amount of time. Then, Staci Lehman writes:

Once removed from the pot, the head would be about 1/3 its original size and the skin dark and rubbery. The skin would then be turned inside out and any leftover flesh scraped off with a knife. The scraped skin was then turned with the proper side out again and the slit in the rear sewn together. The process wasn’t done yet. The head was shrunk even further by inserting hot stones and sand to make it contract from the inside. This also “tanned” the inside, like tanning an animal hide, in order to preserve it.

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