Ifugao headhunted skull with a male and female deer skull either side. On a wooden board and held together with cord.
The Ifugao’s are one of many ethnic groups of wet-rice agriculturalists occupying the mountainous area of northern Luzon, particularly the cordillera region of the Philippines. Hardy farmers, they built incredible stone-walled rice terraces that now form one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. They were also fierce headhunters. The killing of a tribesman was avenged by taking the head of a member of the killer's tribe, resulting in a vicious circle of revenge and war that could last for decades. In addition to being a matter of honour, headhunting was regarded as a great sport that all young warriors could participate in and use to increase their social standing. The undertaking of an expedition involved considerable ritual as well as the careful observance of positive and negative omens. Enemy villages were raided at dawn and a triumphant result was followed by days of feasting and dancing. Successful hunters were tattooed with special blue markings, but also took a piece of the skull, usually the jawbone or the top of the cranium, and fashioned it into a gong-handle. These gongs were then hung as status symbols of great importance on the walls of the warrior's homes.
Head hunting may have originally evolved from cannibalism. Many cultures believed that the head represented the core of the personality and to take it was therefore both an act of violence against and an insult to the victim. It was a common belief that the soul was concentrated in the head and that taking an enemy's head therefore weakened the enemy's entire community. In many headhunting societies taking a head was considered a rite of manhood, denoting the transition from childhood to adulthood, and young men were forbidden to marry until they had claimed one. Victorious hunters would collect heads as trophies and display them prominently to enhance their personal reputations and that of the tribe as a whole, with the added bonus of helping to intimidate current and future enemies. Headhunting has a long history as a supremely effective weapon and those that practiced it often enjoyed very fierce reputations as warriors. Additionally, the Ifugao observe a practice called "second burial" where the body is exhumed after several years and the bones are cleaned and stored in the family home of the dead.
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