Phineas the Pig Skull Goes to a New Home

phineas head on

About two months ago, the butchers gave me another pig skull. I couldn’t say no to the skull, and I also decided I couldn’t have more than three pig skulls in my tiny Portland apartment (that I share with a very patient and cool roommate.) So I decided that if I was going to preserve this piggy, that I needed to give him a new home beyond my shelves.

alex and phineas

Alex and Phineas, perched on the artsy stump outside my apartment that I take pictures on. Duh.

I asked the butcher if he would like the finished skull and he responded that while he would personally love it, his girlfriend would probably scream…which is a pretty common response (either people are fanatical about pig skulls or they start screaming, I’ve found.)

My friend & co-worker Sarah was more than excited to give Phineas a new home, and especially when she found out his name was going to be Phineas. I try to not push a name onto a skull, and instead wait for the name to arrive organically for the skull (whatever the hell that actually means. When it feels right to me, it  feels right to me). The name Phineas came to me rather quickly – on the way into his first soak, actually.

All of the pigs I’ve received have holes in their skulls. I was originally told they were bullet holes, though I’ve had a lot of people also suggest that they are air compression holes. Either way, it can be pretty intense to look at, and Phineas’ hole was quite brutal. The shattering in his skull really resonated with me, and I became fixated on the hole (yeah yeah, “that’s the name of my porno.”)

phineas profile

It made me think of the story of Phineas Gage, a railroad construction foreman, who survived getting a large iron rod through his skull. SAY WHAT.

phineas gagePhineas_gage_-_1868_skull_diagram


I asked some friends of mine who tend to have more access to railroad spikes if I could forever-borrow one to pop into Phineas’ hole. While I received resounding “Oh yeses!”, it turns out these friends don’t have great follow-through (love you both though.) I’m still in the market for a small railroad spike or “small iron rod”, in case anyone else has something they’d like to offer me.


Anyhow, Sarah came and picked up Phineas the other day, and I’m so happy he got to go to such a loving home.

sarah and pigs

Phineas’ new mother, Sarah, who I believe is demonstrating here the proper technique for opening up a plastic bag. You can also see in this pic what a great color Phineas is. Hooray for long hydrogen peroxide soaks!


Honestly, it felt pretty weird having a skull to share with another person. The first time I took a skull home, I felt like it was a strange and dirty secret. I had to hide it from my weird landlord at the time, and I kept it soaking in hot, soapy water in a mop bucket (don’t do that, BTW) up in my apartment for a day – too scared to take it out or look at it. I woke up one morning, and freaked out about it –

“I have a skull just sitting in my room. I’ve gone off the deep end.”

Though it was a weird thing, it was mine. After a big move across the country, I had very few possessions, very few things I could really call my own, and no decoration at all in my apartment. Just this skull. It’s become a totem of a time in my life, a reminder of where things were at, and something I’m happy now to talk about with people, but also never would want to give away. Sadly, he’s not in fabulous condition, but hopefully he’ll survive quite some years.

phineas all pigs

Here’s the whole Skull Family Robinson, spending some quality time together before sending Phineas off to his new home. Left to Right: Wifi, Piggy Stardust, Lucretia & Phineas.

I’ve really had no idea how to clean skulls this whole time, and Phineas is the first skull that I’ve preserved correctly (and it shows! He looks so beautiful!). If you’re interested in preserving skulls, and you’ve read my other blog posts on preserving Lucretia – you shouldn’t follow my methods (but you should read the blog post anyway, because I am so fun!). What you should do is go over to  the Bonelust Blog that Jana Miller runs and get advice from her. She recently commented on one of my posts and gave me some great advice, and a well-deserved tsk-ing.

I’m more than happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability, and direct you to any info that might be helpful.


Operation Lucretia: New Skull Preservation Project

wifi and chocolate cake

WiFi, my first skull. And chocolate cake.

Lucretia is the 3rd pig skull I’ve preserved, so it’s definitely starting to seem like a thing. I strongly believe that the 3rd time you’ve done a thing means it’s become a “thing you do,” and you owe the world an explanation when you stop doing it. OTHERWISE THEY’LL SHAME YOU FOREVER.

I’ve done slightly more research on how to process Lucretia then I did for my previous pig skulls (which was nearly “none whatsoever”). The Bonelust Blog has been the most helpful. Though, honestly, for sort of hacking my way through the process, both WiFi and Piggy Stardust have turned out and held up pretty well.

Piggy Stardust was probably the least stressful to process since I had the benefit of a huge sunny yard, and was able to just plop him outside when I got frustrated with picking tiny bits of meat out of his teeth. Nature worked wonders on cleaning out his skull. However, I’ve moved to a new apartment now, and putting Lucretia outside would certainly worry the neighbors, or even worse, entice the neighbors.

piggy stardust outside

Piggy Stardust, processing outside.

I got Lucretia from the restaurant just today – I believe her face meat was made into head cheese, so just about all of the meat and fat on her face are gone – looks like her brain (or at least parts of it are) is still inside, and plenty of tissue and other gunky stuff inside the nostrils. But the hard work has really been done for me already.


lucretia bucket 1

I’m soaking her skull and her mandible in just plain water, and letting bacteria work some magic before I get into  manually cleaning out the rest. I used a combination of chop sticks, a toothbrush, and a table knife previously, and those will probably be my go-to tools this time as well, because I’m a professional who plows into skulls with chopsticks at weird hours of the night. After I feel like I’ve gotten her sufficiently clean enough, I’ll soak her in a hydrogen peroxide & water solution, which is what I’ve used before with great results, and seems to be strongly recommended via the

lucretia bucket 2

Lucretia will be living in the bucket for awhile. Will update when she emerges.

Honestly, I’m lucky that she comes to me already so clean, though having a skull that’s gone through a braising process probably weakens it some (I think?) and definitely colors the skull. It’ll probably take a bit longer to lighten her up.

I’m still learning a lot of this as I go, so if you’re reading this and have any experience or tips in skull processing, I am more than happy to hear them, or get set straight in some assumption I’m making.