Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

How did I spend my winter holidays?

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9e33d787cff22008e9a188fcbf432cf9I think I already told you this, but one of the fun bits of writing pulp stories, to me, is the pleasure of doing research on weird subjects.

For instance – right now I’m working on a story tentatively called The Mark of Cortazàr, that I hope I’ll have out by the end of January/early February 2016.
Not only I had the fun of going back to my old Victor Von Hagen books, but I had the added bonus of doing some research on the subject of shrunken heads.
Now, isn’t this awesome?
How did I spend my winter holidays?
Looking up headhunters and shrunken heads.

According to Wikipedia

The process of creating a shrunken head begins with removing the skull from the head. An incision is made on the back of the neck and all the skin and flesh is removed from the cranium. Red seeds are placed underneath the eyelids and the eyelids are sewn shut. The mouth is held together with three palm pins. Fat from the flesh of the head is removed. It is here that a wooden ball is placed in order to keep the form. The flesh is then boiled in water that has been saturated with a number of herbs containing tannins. The head is then dried with hot rocks and sand, while molding it to retain its human features. The skin is then rubbed down with charcoal ash. Decorative beads may be added to the head.

imagesI have on good authority that the process can also be achieved by stretching the skin over a series of rocks of decreasing size, while exposing it to the sun.
Not a pleasant nor a fast thing.

Apparently in the fifties a shrunken head would go for 250 bucks, and it figures somebody found a way to mass-produce cheap fakes – shrunken heads of monkeys or other animals, or the end result of grave robbery, not of head-hunting.
Before the fakes market bloomed, apparently headhunters in Central and South America had to increase the number of killings in order to satisfy the market request.

All this, and much more, I had to find and digest, for a 500-words scene in a 15.000 words story.
And yet, as I said, this is part of the fun.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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