How Shrunken Heads Were Prepared
The enemies of the Jivaro were killed (or wounded) and decapitated. After the warriors retreated to a camp away from enemy territory, they made a slit up the back of the head, allowing the skin and hair to be peeled from the skull. The head was simmered for approximately and hour and a half to two hours. If the heads were left any longer the hair would have fallen out.
On removal from the pots, the skin was dark and rubbery, and the head was about 1/3 its original size. The skin was turned inside out and all the flesh adhering was scraped off with a knife. The scraped skin was then turned right side out and the slit in the rear was sewn together. The final shrinking was donw with hot stones and sand in order to sear the exterior and to shrink the head further. These stones were dropped one at a time through the next opening and constantly rotated inside to prevent scorching. When the skin became too small for the stones to be rolled around within the head, sand was heated and substituted for the stones. Hot stones were later applied to the exterior of the face to seal and shape the features. Surplus hair was singed off and the finished product hung over a fire to harden and blacken. A heated machete was applied to the lips to dry them. Following this procedure, the three chonta pins were put through the lips, and the lips then lashed together.
- Source, placard with the shrunken heads at the Buckhorn Saloon in San Antonio Texas