The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Twelve. Towards Unknown Country
caption: rows of bleached skulls in drum houses; graves
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Holongba
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: But all strangers are not given such a friendly reception; rows of bleached skulls hung in the drum-houses, telling grim tales of less fortunate visitors from other tribes. Yes, all these victims were men of other tribes, for the Sangtams do not hang up in the morung the heads of their own tribesmen with whom they have had a slight misunderstanding. Such heads are thrown into the jungle. Walking through the village you recognize the houses of renowned heroes. Whoever takes part in a successful head-hunting raid fastens a string with a plaited cane ball to the gable of his house, and on one string, I counted no less than thirty trophies. These strings, with their head-tallies, are put on a man's grave together with the skulls of all animals slaughtered during his life. Impaled on posts, they speak more clearly than any tombstone inscription of the dead man's deeds. There are little fences round every grave, and drinking-gourds turned upside down on the head of the spikes tell of the last mug of beer the mourners have drunk with the dead.