Head hunter's basket, India, 1851-1920
This woven basket was made by the Naga people of North East India. It is described as a head hunter’s basket and is decorated with raffia fringing, a tassel of coloured hair and a monkey’s skull. The Naga used head hunting – the gathering of human heads – to defend themselves against enemies. They also believed taking heads was a fertility rite which could ensure the continuity of their people. The successful warrior brought the heads home in baskets like this to prove his valour. It also made him attractive to the women of his tribe. However, there is also the possibility that this basket was made as a rather exotic souvenir for tourists visiting India at the turn of the 19th century.
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Glossary: indigenious beliefs