‘Severed heads: Symbols of power’ at the National Archaeological Museum, Madrid

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Spain’s National Archaeology Museum is hosting an exhibition dedicated to trophy heads and their meaning from ancient times to the modern day.

'Severed heads: Symbols of power' at the National Archaeological Museum, Madrid

This touring production from the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia presents archaeological and ethnographic items from various museums, as well as artistic iconography and audiovisual resources which illustrate the occurrence of this phenomenon around the world, and which allow visitors to discover its origins and broad cultural dimensions.




The oldest remains on display date back to the Iron Age. In those times the Iberians in the most northern part of the country were some of the peoples who prepared and publically displayed the severed heads of their defeated enemies as trophies, sometimes alongside seized weapons. This ritual custom and its staging reaffirmed leaders’ power.

'Severed heads: Symbols of power' at the National Archaeological Museum, Madrid
Iberian warrior skull pierced by an iron nail [Credit: MAN]

The Iberian collections from the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia are the only examples of their kind and are therefore given pride of place in this exhibition.

'Severed heads: Symbols of power' at the National Archaeological Museum, Madrid
Skull from Puig de Castellar [Credit: Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya]

The so-called “nailed heads” from the Puig Castellar settlement are displayed, some for the first time, together with those recently discovered in the Iberian town of Ullastret.

'Severed heads: Symbols of power' at the National Archaeological Museum, Madrid
Process of digital reconstruction of Iberian warrior [Credit: © Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya
with Visualforensic]

Modern analytical and forensic techniques have been used to study them, culminating in the first scientific reconstruction of the face of an Iberian, a young warrior from the third century BCE.




‘Severed heads: Symbols of power’ addresses a universal concept which has regained contemporary relevance in a striking manner and which blurs the boundaries between past and present.

'Severed heads: Symbols of power' at the National Archaeological Museum, Madrid
Iberian staff representing two horses with heads of enemies hanging
[Credit: © Museo Numantino de Soria]

This touring exhibition includes pieces from the settlements of Ullastret, Barcelona and Girona from the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia, and others from the National Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of the Americas in Madrid, the Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures in Barcelona, the Granollers Museum, the Numantine Museum of Soria, the Ca n’Oliver Museum in Cerdanyola del Vallùs, as well as the Prehistory Museum of Valencia, the National Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of America in Madrid and the National Archaeological Museum itself.

The exhibition opened on 01 April and will until 01 September 2019.

Source: Museo ArqueolĂłgico Nacional [April 06, 2019]

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