The art of reduced heads

This Aboriginal technique known as Tzantza, practiced by the indigenous tribe of Los Shuar, which are the largest Amazonian people in South America occupying the extensive jungles located between Ecuador and Peru.


Millennial knowledge

The Tzantza or “reduced head” is a millennial technique that involves reducing the heads of enemies, to use as a war trophy and repeatedly, to use as a talisman. The hunter murders his opponent by killing him with an incision in his neck; it then cuts into the collarbone and carefully separates the skin from the skull to extract fat and flesh.

These Amazonian Aboriginal semoriginals boil the skin of their victims in a mixture of water and countless jungle plants, whose origin is unknown, and then mold it into a wooden ball, in a process that lasts about 7 days. Thanks to cooking, the skin is reduced to the size of a fist. Finally, they dry it with smoke and finish molding it with hot stones and sand.


The purpose of this mummification is to retain the soul of the adversary, so that he cannot escape and avenge his death. The Shuar tribe believes that there are three spirits that dwell in man and dominate in their ancestral beliefs: Wakani, who is the omnipotent who never dies; Arutam, who is the power that protects them from violent death; and Mésak, who is the spirit of vengeance.

Thousands of reduced heads have been bought by many museums around the world and are a big focus of attention for viewers who look at them terrified, but the question is: do those heads still behave the soul of the deceased?unknown that we may not be able to solve, but that it is a sign of great ingenuity or indigenous malice.

The art of reduced heads
Source: curiosities  
July 28, 2019


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