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Download PDF Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found

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Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found by Frances Larson - gyqacyxaja.cf

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.

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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.

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From head-shrinking to skull-seeking: a history of the severed head

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The trophy hunting of American soldiers during the Second World War is a case in point. Larson has read numerous diaries and letters in which men serving in the Pacific admit to boiling Japanese heads in oil drums, bleaching skulls to make candlesticks or amusing themselves by tossing pebbles into the open cranium of a dead enemy. Photography played a part, too, in the eventual hiding away of the work of the guillotine, French crowds in the early 20th century proving horribly eager to get a snapshot of the decisive moment.


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The heads often possess telepathic powers, which neatly solves the narrative problem of their not getting about much. Larson is less apt than Kristeva to theorise about the desire to gaze upon a severed head, even when she turns inevitably to reflect on the millions who by now have watched terrorist beheading videos online. Dec E I T F Sign Up to our newsletter Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Vikings - scaring Burgred with decapitated heads !

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