The genetic signature of a shrunken head

Dalia Hermon, Ron Gafny, Ashira Zamir, Lia Hadas, Marina Faerman, Gila Kahila Bar-Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The making of ritual shrunken heads, or tsantsas, was a common practice among the Jivaro-Shuar tribes of Ecuador and Peru during the post-Columbian period. The raising interest in the tsantsas in the late nineteenth through the twentieth century caused an increase in manufacturing of forged shrunken heads for profit. In the current study, we examined the authenticity and possible cultural provenance of the shrunken head displayed at the "Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv" using macro- and microscopic criteria together with DNA analyses. DNA analyses have revealed that the shrunken head represents a human male individual with a genetic profile compatible with an African ancestry and resembling that of modern South American populations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)223-228
Number of pages6
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Ancient DNA
  • Authenticity evaluation
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Sex identification
  • Short tandem repeats
  • Shrunken Head


Dive into the research topics of 'The genetic signature of a shrunken head'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this