Jivaro: The Tribe of the Shrunken Heads
The Jivaro are amongst the most famous tribes of the Amazon area, due to their habits of
shrinking the heads of the enemies killed in war. The Jivaro tribes inhabit an area larger
than Switzerland on the eastern slopes of the Andes, in Ecuador, Brazil and Peru, in one of
the densest rain forests.
The war combativeness and aggressiveness of the Jivaro make them feared and hated by
neighboring tribes. Still, Jivaro mainly practice inter-tribal wars.
The Jivaro villages are made of very large huts, up to 20 m (66 ft) in length, and oval.
Around the walls the beds of the family members are placed and a cooking fire is lighted in
the center. The hut has two doors: a principal door for men and a back door for women.
Jivaro women were treated with harshness and scorn by their husbands; the sons, when
grown a little, were taken to live with their fathers. Each man had several wives, of whom
some were just slaves, won after defeating an enemy group, as all the men of the defeated
When a Jivaro warrior killed an enemy, the head of the latter was cut off and brought to the
jivaria, where the other members receive him with pride and joy. A series of rites ensured
the warrior was not empowered with the soul of the dead enemy, believed to inhabit his
head. The main rite is txantxa, the reduction of the cut head for a better conservation and
exhibition. The skin and meat were separated from the skull, considered useless. The skin
was boiled in a special pot, with the juice of various vines and grasses that made the skin to
shrink. Once cooked, the head was left to dry, then it was filled with hot stones, which
further shrank it. Subsequently, hot sand is placed inside and the features are modeled so
that they resemble as much as possible the dead enemy. The lips were sewed with cords
and on the closed eyelids pegs were applied. When finished, the head had the size of an
orange. On the top of the head small cords were sewed, so that the head could be hung as
a trophy at the belt of the winner or on the roof of his hut.Na dann Mahlzeit, bei solch idyllischen Sitten und Gebräuchen aus dem Amazonas-Regenwald ...