crime tattoos

A ‘mokomokai’ (preserved head) of a Maori warrior.

To the Maori people of New Zealand, facial tattoos (moko) were considered a sacred part of a person’s identity, and preserving them after death was considered an honor for the deceased.

After battle, the Maori would decapitate a warrior who fought bravely, remove the brain and eyes, and boil the head at low heat for a number of days. They would then smoke the head over an open fire until the skin was completely dried out, and tan it in the sun.