Sunday, September 16, 2012

Testing a tsantsa

Something morbidly momentous happened in June, and I missed it: DNA analysis was used on a shrunken head (tsanta)!  The head in question was in the collection of the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.  Pictured above, the head is in excellent preservation, with hair and facial features intact.  With as many as 80% of shrunken heads believed to be forgeries, this one proved to be real human skin, salted and boiled.  The man who the skin belonged to had West African ancestry, but matched modern populations in Ecuador. According to researcher Gila Kahila Bar-Gal of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he was probably a member of a group that fought the Ecuadorian Jivaro-Shuar tribes known to make ritual shrunken heads out of their enemies. The date of his death was not pinpointed, but took place between 1600 and 1900 A.D. Once prepared, the head would have adorned the house or been worn on the person as a trophy, and would have been used in ceremonies. The authors of the study in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences - the 1st successful effort to identify the genetic make-up of a shrunken head - hope other museums will follow their lead and test similar items in their collections.
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1 comment:

  1. You totally have the coolest stuff. Not a bad blog bone in your body.

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