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Headhunters in Borneo would mark one finger joint with a blue dot for each victim they had killed. Chief Temenggong Koh had completely blue hands by the time of his death in the late 20th Century.
The Sausa Tribe from Peru would skin their enemies, before filling the skin with ash, sewing it back up and displaying the stuffed skin as a trophy and status symbol.
The feared Wa Tribe from the jungles of Burma (Myanmar) would regularly cut off people’s heads, and did so up until the 1970s, as they thought the severed heads prevented disease and brought good luck.
Some of the most unbelievable discoveries of Robert Ripley made on his travels were the shrunken heads of South America. The Jivaro Tribes of Ecuador and Peru would take the heads of fallen enemies, remove the skin whole, and shrink it to the size of a fist. Tsantas, as the shrunken heads were known locally, were used to banish the vengeful spirits of their previous owners, with their lips sewn shut to stop the spirits from escaping. When Western tourists began to visit the area in the 19th and 20th Century centuries, a demand for gruesome souvenirs fueled the practice, and it is said that people were killed just to keep up the supply. Robert Ripley later reported in his journal that a German scientist who attempted to find Jivaro headhunters came out of the forest as nothing more than a shrunken head with a red beard. A TV documentary team recently unearthed a Polish videotape from the early 1960s that not only seemed to prove that tsantas were still being made by the Jivaro tribe at the time, but also provides remarkable video footage of the head-shrinking process. The Jivaro used to take a decapitated head and make an incision in the back of the scalp so that they could slice the skin, flesh and hair off the bone, making sure it remained intact. Then they take the boneless head, sew the eyelids shut, and seal the mouth with wooden pegs. The next part of the process involved boiling the head for no less than two hours in herbs that contained tannin to dry out the head. Once removed from the boil, the flesh was scraped from the skin and the head was shrunk further with hot rocks and sand, before being gradually molded back into its original shape. Finally, the mouth was sewn and shut with string and for the head dried over a fire for several days.