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A Shrunken Head in Memphis

By Linda Tancs

One of the most enduring landmarks in Memphis, Tennessee, the Pink Palace Museum hosts an eclectic mix of artifacts bearing historical, educational and technological significance. For instance, you’ll find a life-size replica of the first Piggly Wiggly store, the forerunner to today’s self-service grocery store. That was the brainchild of grocery clerk Clarence Saunders, who later conceived of the palatial estate now hosting the museum. But perhaps the most memorable exhibit for visitors is the shrunken head sitting in the middle of the rotunda. Once owned by local businessman Abe Scharff, it was later donated to the museum and is believed to be a relic from his visits to South American tribal regions in modern-day Ecuador and Peru where head shrinking was a common practice. No one is quite sure whether the item is real, but you can read up on the process that headhunters used to get a shrunken head while you’re deciding for yourself.

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