Tsantsa Research: the mummification, morphology and culture of shrunken heads.
A number of cultures have engaged in the production of head trophies for the purpose of revenge, remembrance and trade. The unique North-West South American mummification technique used during the making of tsantsa reduces the head to the size of a fist. It is formed only from the mummified skin and adhering hair of a decapitated subject and excludes the skull. The existing skin can provide clues about pathologies and basic facial features.
Limited understanding exists however, regarding the biological changes within the soft tissue and subsequent facial morphology of tsantsa.Using infra red, ultraviolet and MDCT technology, the effects of this mummification technique will be assessed. Such research may contribute to a better understanding of tissue response to certain environmental conditions and perhaps provide insight into how facial features are altered during mummification.
This project embraces the historical, tribal and geographical significance of tsantsa – leading to a deeper understanding of how and why head shrinking cultures and techniques developed. Land resources, religion, other head-trophy production techniques, inter-tribal and sub-tribal activities will be examined.
Forensic and Medical Art Demonstrator
- Houlton, Tobias (Spring, 2012). Facial Analysis of a Tsantsa (shrunken head).
- Axis Journals, University of Dundee. Vol. 4 Issue 1.
- Houlton, Tobias (Spring, 2012) Reconstructing the Face of the McManus Tsantsa.Axis Journals, University of Dundee. Vol. 4 Issue 1.
- Houlton, Tobias (Autumn 2011) Historical Context of Tsantsa (shrunken heads) and Studies Using Pig Heads.Axis Journals, University of Dundee. Vol. 3 Issue 1.
- Houlton, Tobias (2010) 2D Facial Reconstruction. Axis Journals, University of Dundee.
- Pringle, Heather (22 July 2011). In the Hands of Mummy Experts, Ancient Faces Gain New Life. Science Magazine. Science. Vol 333. Pp. 402-403.
- Robert-Géraudel, Adélaïde (June 2012). Portrait-Robot D’une Tête Réduite. Science et Vie Junior, Issue 273. Pp. 56-59.
- Williams, A.R. (January 2012). For the first time, a portrait emerges from a South American shrunken head. National Geographic Magazine. Pp. 28-29.
- Houlton, Tobias (5 November 2011). Verbal presentation: Research, History, Identification and Facial Reconstruction of a Tsantsa (shrunken head). TAFAC (Tayside and Fife Archeological Committee): Archeological Conference.
- Houlton, Tobias (13 June 2011). Poster presentation: Facial Analysis of Tsantsa. 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies, hosted by the AAAS Pacific Division. 13-15 June 2011.
- Houlton, Tobias (13 June 2011). Poster presentation: Historical Context of Tsantsa. 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies, hosted by the AAAS Pacific Division.
- Houlton, Tobias (15 June 2011). Verbal presentation: Facial Analysis of a Tsantsa. 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies, hosted by the AAAS Pacific Division.
- Houlton, Tobias (28 May 2011). Verbal presentation: Research, History, Identification and Facial Reconstruction of a Tsantsa (shrunken head). The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum.
- PHAEBUS Production (20 September 2011). Cambridge University Press: Interactive for Level 3 English Language Students. Filmed interview about Forensic Art.
- Radio 4 (11 August 2011). Live interview with Quentin Cooper, Material World.
- Thornton, Paul (18 August 2011). That unshrinking feeling. The Scottish Sun.
- Wilkinson, Caroline & Houlton, Tobias (7 December 2011). ECA (Edinburgh College of Art): Promotional Talk for Forensic and Medical Art MSc Course.