Experts studying these mysterious 500-year-old shrunken heads from the Amazon that were seized from a smuggler during a raid in Turkey revealed they all had their lips sewn shut to keep evil spirits trapped inside them.
It was also revealed that one of the four shrunken heads, also known as Tsantsa heads, that were seized last month in a raid on a relic smuggler in the town of Aliaga, in Izmir Province, in Turkey was a fake – but the others were real.
The 500-year-old skulls are originally from South America, and the three that were genuine are believed to be from the Jivaroan peoples.
The Jivaroan peoples are the only people on Earth known to engage in head shrinking, a practice by which human heads are distorted and shrunk and used in rituals and to scare enemies. A shrunken head, cut from an enemy, would typically be worn around the victor’s neck to show their heroism, to protect them and to bring them luck.
It has now been revealed that the heads had their lips sewn shut because it was believed that, because they belonged to enemies, they still contained evil spirits, even after they had died. By sewing their lips shut, it was believed that the evil spirits could be trapped inside the heads.
Numerous other artefacts were also seized during the raid, including five coins from the Byzantine era, 19 Ottoman books, some arrowheads, and various other objects. In total, 59 artefacts were seized.
The authorities also found 27 oil paintings and other items from the 18th century, along with 269 historical objects from various periods at a warehouse, also in Aliaga.
The three Tsantsas, or shrunken heads, plus the one that was fake were found along with two mummified heads.
The Ministry of culture and tourism is carrying out DNA tests on the shrunken heads to determine exactly which tribe from the Jivaroan peoples the three heads are from.
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