The Shuar of South America is the only tribe to have never been conquered by the Spanish Empire. But the thing they're most famous for is a macabre tradition: shrinking the heads of their enemies.
In the 1840s, Western explorers entered the Amazon rainforest and stumbled upon the ancient ritual of head shrinking. This isolated ceremonial practice soon became an obsession to trophy collectors, setting off a bizarre international trade, and a deadly new chapter in the history of the Shuar tribe. Follow a team of anthropologists, historians, and scientists as they use DNA, forensic science, and computer modeling to examine the ancient craft of head shrinking and the story of a society of victims, who were also perpetrators.
Watch this episode online now.
Stream hundreds of shows by starting your free trial to Smithsonian Channel Plus.
Access even more free Smithsonian Channel full episodes and documentaries online through participating TV providers.
Find out if your television provider carries Smithsonian Channel.
Don't panic! It's simple to upgrade to the latest version of one of these browsers:
Don't panic! To get the best possible experience on smithsonianchannel.com we recommend you upgrade your operating system.
For the best possible site experience, please use Chrome for Android.
Add username "SmithsonianChan" on Snapchat for fun and fascinating facts. We'll be sharing spontaneous photos and videos as inspiration strikes.