A serious and seriously entertaining exploration of the dark and varied obsessions that the 'civilized West' has had with decapitated heads and skulls. The human head is exceptional. It accommodates four of our five senses, encases the brain, and boasts the most expressive set of muscles in the body. It is our most distinctive attribute and connects our inner selves to the outer world. Yet there is a dark side to the head's preeminence, one that has, in the course of human history, manifested itself in everything from decapitation to headhunting. So explains anthropologist Frances Larson in this fascinating history of decapitated human heads. From the Western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred massacres to Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of the Japanese home to their girlfriends, from Madame Tussaud modeling the guillotined head of Robespierre to Damien Hirst photographing decapitated heads in city morgues, from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores our macabre fixation with severed heads.
Run time: 9 hours
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Frances Larson is an honorary research fellow in anthropology at Durham University. She is the author of a biography of Henry Wellcome, An Infinity of Things (2009), published to considerable critical acclaim and subsequently shortlisted for the MJA Awards and chosen as a Sunday Times Book of the Year as well as a New Scientist Best Book of 2009. She is also the coauthor of Knowing Things (2007), a book on the history of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Larson lives in Durham, England.