Maori Tribes of New Zealand used to mummify heavily tattooed heads of warrior adversaries, skin, hair, teeth and other body parts. Maori warriors would collect them as trophies the decapitated, tattooed heads of notable enemies they killed in a battle, and the heads of their own dead leaders and family members were also removed and treated with respect – sometimes to prevent other tribes escaping with them. It has been reported that entire bodies were preserved, although none remain. Maori facial tattoos, known as Ta Moko, were a long and painful process, which made use of carved bone chisels to make cuts in the face. In order to mummify a head, the Maoris would first remove the brain and the eyes from the decapitated head. Then the empty skull and eye sockets were stuffed with plant fibers. The head was then dried over a period of 24 hours using boiling, steaming and smoking methods. In the 18th Century, European visitors began to buy the skulls as interesting artifacts, and soon the trade in mummified Ta Moko became so popular that appropriately tattooed enemies were killed solely in order to supply the market with fresh heads. This murderous practice was eventually outlawed in the 19th Century.
The journalist Paul Raffaele reported in 2006 that he had discovered a modern headhunter tribe on the island of New Guinea that still removed the heads of their enemies and cannibalized their remains, and they have the skulls to prove it.
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote of a nomadic tribe in Iran that killed and ate members of their community when they became old and weak, cooking them with their cattle. According to his writings, this was the way they preferred to go.
In 1995, two climbers in the Andes discovered the mummified body of a young girl, frozen solid on the side of Mount Ampato. Although it is thought she died in the 15th Century, her body was remarkably well preserved.
Headhunting rituals took place in Europe well into the 29th Century. Tribes in Montenegro would remove the heads of the people they had killed to prevent them receiving a proper burial.