Turkish police uncovered hundreds of ancient artifacts in anti-smuggling raids — including multiple shrunken human heads.
Acting on a tip, police in Izmir raided a home Dec. 13 and seized 400 relics, Reuters reported.
An initial search unveiled 19 Ottoman manuscripts, four bone hairpins, various Byzantine-era coins and 59 other assorted artifacts from various historical periods. Following the wildly successful raid, the operation was expanded and the anti-smuggling team went on to uncover four shrunken human heads — with skin and hair — plus three mummies and 27 18th-century paintings, among 269 other relics, some dating back to the prehistoric period.
The orange-sized heads — or “tsantsa” — are thought to be from South America’s Jivaro tribe, which believed that by sewing the mouth shut a soul was kept trapped as an act of revenge.
“The examination of these artifacts will take a long time,” said Izmir Archeology Museum Director Hunkar Keser. “We need to do some laboratory or DNA analyses … the dates and origins of the works will be revealed at the end of these examinations.”
Of the findings, 337 have been sent to the Izmir Archeology Museum Directorate and 27 have been sent to the Izmir Painting and Sculpture Museum.
“The principle of our country and ministry is to send the artifacts to the country that it belongs to, in accordance with international and bilateral agreements” Keser noted.
In other recent artifacts news, New York hedge fund billionaire and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt this month handed over $70 million of antiquities following a criminal probe that determined the items to be stolen. Steinhardt’s surrendering of the precious items came as part of a deal for him to avoid facing criminal charges, said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.