Bontoc Head Hunter Poses With His Fresh Trophy Head Statue
Tribal Bod Mod

Bontoc Head Hunter Poses With His Fresh Trophy Head Statue

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Item details

Vintage from before 2000

A rather incredible folk art carving from the Ifugao - Bontoc people of North Luzon, Philippines. The successful warrior straddles the body of his victim and hoists the severed head aloft. Notice the style of the head-taking axe in his right hand. At this moment we are offering a genuine Bontoc head taking axe like this on this site. Have a look. Carved wood statue measures about 23 inches tall - this is not a small piece and needs a good display position.

It is a fact that unusual or bizarre behavior in other humans has the ability to both fascinate and repel us, and the practice of headhunting easily falls into this category.

Follows is a quoted section from the site that offers some depth and insight to the head taking traditions of SE Asia and Oceania.


Head taking has been practiced by numerous people throughout the world from ancient times all the way into the 21th century. The term describes the practice of cutting off and preserving the head or skull of a fallen enemy. But why do people take heads?

Head hunting may have originally evolved from cannibalism. Many people believe that the head represents the core of the personality and to take it is therefore both an act of violence against and an insult to the victim. It is a common belief that the soul is concentrated in the head and that taking an enemy's head therefore weakens the enemy's entire community. In many headhunting societies taking a head is considered a rite of manhood, denoting the transition from childhood to adulthood, and young men may not marry until they have taken one. Victorious hunters claim the heads as trophies and display them prominently to increase 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 practice it often have extremely fierce reputations.

Given this fascination with headhunting practices, it is hardly surprising that artifacts collected from head taking tribes are particularly desirable to collectors around the world. This fascination extends to the paraphernalia associated with taking heads, either to do with the act itself or to denote the status of warriors and their families within the head hunting community. In tribal societies ornaments can symbolize valorous deeds, social status, wealth, and clan identification. Such artifacts include weapons, carved objects, wearings, headdresses and jewellery, and sometimes the heads themselves.

Many of the Philippine tribes engaged in head taking practices, including the Bontoc (Illongots), Kalinga, Ifugoa and Ga'dung people of Northern Luzon. They are hardy farmers and thousands of years ago 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 death of a fellow tribesman was avenged by taking the head of a member of the killer's group, resulting in a vicious circle of revenge and war that could last for years. In addition to being a matter of honor, headhunting was regarded as a great sport that all young warriors aspired to. The undertaking of an expedition involved considerable ritual and the observance of 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.

Today these peoples adhere to a mixture of Christianity and their traditional animist beliefs. While the practice of head taking remained active until at least the 1970's, even today it is considered an acceptable act of revenge. And locals in Bontoc province note that modern young "warriors" sometimes lie in wait for a rice farmer on the terraces to shoot him or her dead, taking their head in a grisly modern ritual of peer approval. Police investigate the incidence of all headless bodies by examining local youths for new tattoos as a means of finding culprits, however they have found new ways to mark themselves that are not familiar to the police.