National Geographic Society Newsroom

Headed Your Way: Expedition Week

The National Geographic Channel kicks off Expedition Week 2009 in the U.S. Sunday night with Search for the Amazon Headshrinkers—and an invitation to shrink your own head. The program retraces the journey of explorer Edmundo Bielawski, who returned from the Amazon in the 1960s with film of a human head-shrinking ceremony featuring a recently deceased...

headshrinker.jpg

The National Geographic Channel kicks off Expedition Week 2009 in the U.S. Sunday night with Search for the Amazon Headshrinkers—and an invitation to shrink your own head.

The program retraces the journey of explorer Edmundo Bielawski, who returned from the Amazon in the 1960s with film of a human head-shrinking ceremony featuring a recently deceased person’s actual head. (Purportedly, this is the only authentic footage of such a ceremony that’s known to exist.) The NatGeo Channel obtained an exclusive license to broadcast Bielawski’s archival footage.

The Shuar people of Ecuador and Peru shrank the heads of enemies to render them powerless, to gain authority over their wives and children, and to prevent their souls from taking vengeance. The process, as documented by Bielawski, was elaborate.

The fascination of Europeans and Americans with shrunken heads (called tsantsa in the Shuar language) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries may have increased local warfare, as warriors sought heads for trade.

Now there’s a safer, easier way: The Channel’s online Headshrinker lets you see how you, your friends and loved ones, and your favorite (or not-so-favorite) celebrities and politicians might look in portable tsantsa form.

Search for the Amazon Headshrinkers premieres at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time Sunday night on the National Geographic Channel.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.