Well let’s see, there are the Aztec, the Inca, the Teotihuacan (Toltec), the Maya, the Zapotec, the Huasteca, the Olmec, the Chavin, Zapotec (Monte Alban, Mixtla), the Nazca, the Palenque, Huari and Tiahuanaco cultures or empires. There is also that head-hunting Jívaro culture of Ecuador.
How can we ever keep all of this stuff straight? Who were or are these people? Where did they live? When did they live if they have gone the way of the earth?
Let’s get the Jívaro out of the way first. They are the Ecuadorian head hunters. Here is how you shrink a head according to [http://www.readingpublicmuseum.org/galleries/first/latin.html:]
”Shrunken Heads (tsantas)
“The skin is cut and removed from the skull which is discarded, the lips and eyes are pinned or sewed together, and the skin is boiled with an astringent plant that shrinks it and fixes the hair. It is further reduced to about the size of an orange by successively chavin de huantar placing hot stones and sand inside it; then it is packed, smoked, resewn, polished, and kept in a jar.” (Note: Don’t throw the skin away. It’s the skull that gets dumped.)
My favorite book when I was a kid was I Was a Head-hunter by Lewis V. Cummings (The Riverside Press Cambridge 1941). Over the years I’ve tried to get a copy of this book. Finally I found one for $25.00. Now that I’ve found my copy I see that there are suddenly a “plethora” of them on the Internet. You better grab your copy now!
Anyway, right after The Great War (WW I), Cummings dropped in on the Jívaro and married several Jívaro women. He became a polygamist! He learned the ways of the Jívaro before he was “sent packing” down the river! In the Appendix of his book he tells all about the Jívaro and their quaint customs.
Here is the good thing about taking another persons head and I quote Cummings: “…the spiritual, mental, and moral qualities of the dead automatically transfer to the slayer and taker of the head.”