head is exceptional. 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 it connects our inner selves to
the outer world more evocatively than any other part of the body. Yet
there is a dark side to the head's pre-eminence.
centuries, human heads have decorated our churches, festooned our city
walls and filled our museums. Long regarded as objects of fascination
and repulsion, they have been props for artists and specimens for
laboratory scientists, trophies for soldiers and items of barter.
as videos of decapitations circulate online and scientists promise the
wealthy among us that our heads may one day live on without our bodies,
the severed head is as contentious and compelling as ever.
From the western colonialists whose demand for shrunken heads spurred
brutal massacres to the troops in the Second World War who sent the
remains of Japanese soldiers home to their girlfriends; from the
memento mori in Romantic portraits to Damien Hirst's With Dead Head;
from grave-robbing phrenologists to enterprising cryonicists, Larson
explores the bizarre, often gruesome and confounding history of the
severed head. Its story is our story.