A History of Shrunken Heads...

Here at Pigeon Creek Studio its important for us to carefully choose our products that we make as the process we use to make them mean that we have to make them in decent numbers. Unless someone is asking us to make a custom item then we have to be sure that we are going to be able to sell more than one in order for us to operate as a successful buisness. Now the first stage of us being able to do that starts with research. So in this blog we will be taking a look at the level of detail that we go into when looking at what we want to make next.

Our next product that we are looking at producing are shrunken human heads. (Just to make sure nobody looses their heads and starts reporting us to the police…obviously they will be fake ones, not real ones!) So straight away we start to look into the history of shrunken heads, but we dont start at the beginning. Instead where we start is looking at how well known something is! Now in the case of shrunken heads thats not to difficult to find out as they pop up in several recent movies and well known books. To see what we mean here is just a few places off the top of our heads we can remember having seen shrunken heads…there is one in Beetlejuice where Harry the Head Hunter in the Netherworld Waiting Room is sporting his own head thats been shrunk. Another one is on the Knight Bus in Harry Potter, they crop up in Hotel Transylvania, Pirates of the Carribbean and many more. So the concept of shrunken heads is one thats current and people will recognise. That ticks box number one.

Here you can see our basic clay sculpture of a head! You can even see us referencing some images in the back to make sure we are as accurate as possible!

Here you can see our basic clay sculpture of a head! You can even see us referencing some images in the back to make sure we are as accurate as possible!

The next thing we start to look at is the actual real world history of what we want to make! Researching something like this takes a bit of time and when you dig into it, is really pretty interesting! Shrunken heads were only really found in area’s of South America mainly around Peru and Ecuador. The practice of shrinking a head had mainly religious or superstitious meaning. The idea behind it is that once you had defeated an enemy you would remove his head, shrink it and carry it with you to ensure that the soul of your enemy would not be able to avenge their death. The heads were also said to have the added value of protecting you from evil spirits or from suffering your own violent deaths. Sounds like a useful thing to have, right?

Now the actual process of shrinking the head is a little bit of a grim read…so if your squeamish then i wouldn’t read this next part…if not then lets delve a little deeper!

First the head would be removed from the body and an incision would be made to allow the skin to be removed from the skull. The lips/eyes are sewn shut. A wooden ball or sometimes a rock is used in order for the skin to keep its shape before it is boiled in water. This causes the head to shrink in size, but this isn’t enough to shrink the head down so afterwards it is dried by placing hot sand or rocks inside which then causes it to shrink further. This also allows the features to be molded slightly. Afterwards the head is covered in charcoal ash. Its this final stage of covering the head in charcoal ash that is said to seal the vengeful soul of the defeated warrior!

So, how did Shrunken Heads reach us? Well as with almost every cultural cross over it starts with trade and money. Shrunken Heads became a “must-have” item and where there is a demand, then someone is going to come up with a way to make money. Now clearly there isn’t a whole lot of enemies just floating around for these South American Tribes to kill so people began to come up with a multitude of ways to meet this supply including taking heads from the recently deceased and selling them to the tourist trade. It is estimated that somewhere over 80% of the shrunken heads held by museums or in private collections today are as a result of this tourist trade and are either not authentic, come from a female body or in some cases can even be the heads of monkeys or sloths.

Shrunken heads originate in South America, in the area of the Amazon Rain Forest.

Shrunken heads originate in South America, in the area of the Amazon Rain Forest.

Now that we have conducted our research on what we want to make we have to come up with a way of producing it to make it as realistic as possible, again we do this with all of our products! We love the reaction that people have when they pick one of our items up at a convention and they freak themselves out because it feels so real. In this case we have had to research, purchase and trial a whole new type of foam to gain the correct feeling and texture for the skin. We also have had to learn a whole new process of hair punching in order to attach the hair to the head in order to make it look as realistic as possible!

You now know the level of detail that we go into when choosing a new product we hope that you keep in mind the effort, attention to detail and ultimately love that goes into each of the things that we produce. We went through the same stages with our skulls, masks and toe drives! you get to find out about some amazing things such as the catacombs under Paris and churches made of skulls! Things you wouldnt come across unless you were specifically looking for them. For more information on Shrunken Heads you can find some information on Google or go on Youtube where there are alot of interesting video’s!

We hope you look forward to getting to see and have the change to purchase our shrunken head when they go on sale June 2019!

  • Pigeon Creek Studio

Melissa Macmillan