A shrunken head that was on display for years at a university in Georgia has been returned to the place it came from.
Known as a “tsantsa,” the artifact has been sent back to its home country of Ecuador after researchers realized it was the real thing.
NBC News reports that the artifact had been sitting on display at Mercer University in Macon for decades. The tsantsa had even been glued to a fake body and used as a prop in the 1979 John Huston movie, “Wise Blood,” a dark comedy film starring Brad Dourif of “Chucky” fame.
So, as opposed to keeping it on display at the university, Mercer researchers decided to send the head back where it belonged in order for it to be properly recognized for its historical and cultural importance.
“This is not an oddity—this is somebody’s body, this is somebody’s culture, and it’s not ours,” wrote Mercer University chemist and one of the researchers, Adam Kiefer, in the resulting study. “So from our perspective, repatriation was essential, and we were very lucky that our university supported this endeavor.”
But how did such a unique artifact find itself at the university in the first place?
According to the Independent, biologist Jim Harrison stumbled upon the tsantsa as he was traveling through Ecuador in the 1940s. The head then became a fixture at the school upon Harrison’s death in 2016.
“It was ‘Indiana Jones,’” said Dr. Kiefer to NBC News. “When this was collected, science was different, everything was new…but almost 80 years later, we recognize its cultural importance, along with the science.”