Shrunken Heads at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford

Museum of the Month is a series where I share my experiences of visiting unique and often strange museums from around the world. My aim is to rebuff the notion that museums are boring. Join me on my quest!

Shruken Heads Pitt Rivers

Before we head into June, I need to feature a museum on my blog this month so let me introduce you to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.

Everyone knows Oxford for its prestigious university and tweed jackets. But what about its decapitated and shrunken heads?

Lots of people associate Oxford with Harry Potter too, so its funny that the Pitt Rivers Museum is kind of like all the stuff you would expect to find thrown into a witch’s cauldron.

Located at the back of Oxford’s Natural History Museum, through a dimly-lit doorway, lies the Pitt Rivers Museum, (a museum within a museum – naturally, I felt very spoilt) it possesses a looming presence even before entering, pulling the eyes closer by a magnetic string of curiosity.

Oxford, Natural History Museum

Inside the Natural History Museum that leads to the Pitt Rivers Museum

Or perhaps it’s just me and my incessant need to know what lurks on the other side of darkness. Doorways, tunnels, caves, burrows, you name it.

I almost don’t want to give any information away about this museum because I think it’s a good idea to visit without knowing too much about what lies inside, as if it were a treasure chest waiting to be unlocked. So to pique your interest I’m going to leave you with a few photographs I took inside and if you want to know what they are, and what they were used for, I guess you’ll just have to come and visit! This museum is a must for anyone visiting Oxford, especially if travelling and knowing about different cultures is a topic you’re particularly fond of because most of the 300,000+ objects inside the museum were donated by scholars, anthropologists, explorers and travellers.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

But before dashing off, I’ve got a little information about the shrunken heads. This collection originates from tribes in the Amazon, up until the 1960s men would traditionally take the heads of their enemies to prove their manhood and to avenge the death of relatives. British explorers initially collected their heads (shrunken to the size of a child’s fist) as they saw them as exotic curiosities. I imagine they serve more for anthropological reasons now, but there is no denying it, they’re a curiosity alright!

Shrunken heads, Pitt Rivers Museum

It’s strange how as the face shrinks it gives the impression of abnormally long eyelashes!

Pitt River Museums

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford

Inside Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt  Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford


General Information

How to get there: The entrance to the Pitt Rivers Museum is through the Oxford University Museum Natural History (OUMNH) on Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW.
Admission Fee: Free (including the Natural History Museum)
Opening Times: 10 – 16.30 Tue – Sun, 12-16.30 Mon

Have you been to the Pitt Rivers Museum? Or would you like to visit?

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