Marañon River, Ecuador and Peru, 19th century
What is it? This is a special necklace worn for festivals and to give spiritual protection.
What is it made from? This necklace is made from shining leaf chafer beetle wing cases (Chrysophora chrysochlora). The wing cases have been cut and squared off, drilled with holes and strung onto thread, then stitched onto a roll of cloth. The beetle wing cases would have caught the light and sparkled in the bright equatorial sun. The necklace also has two tufts of human hair and toucan breast feathers to give the wearer spiritual power and protection.
Who made it? It was made by the Jívaro people who live in Peru and Ecuador, where the foothills of the Andes meet the head waters of the Amazon River. The two main groups are the Shuar and Achuar, which in their languages means ‘person.’
How do the Jívaro live today? For a long time the Jívaro had a reputation for being fierce warriors. A 17th-century Spanish governor who tried to conquer the Shuar territory to mine for gold was killed by pouring molten gold down his throat. This story and and their practice of taking and shrinking heads kept outsiders at bay for hundreds of years. Modern Jívaro live in cities and villages and most are farmers and although some still hunt and gather in the forest their headhunting days are long behind them.