Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mayan Ideas of Personal Beauty

From what archaeologists have put together so far, some Mayan ideas of beauty were similar to ours. However, they have also found that other Mayan ideas of beauty were far removed from what we think of as attractive. (Keep in mind though that a lot of what archaeologists look at comes from a certain part of the ancient Mayan world, and what they think they know might change.)

Let's start with the shape of the head. Mayans thought a long head was beautiful. Parents would strap a pair of boards to the front and back of their babies' heads -- while they were still soft and therefore could be shaped. The babies' heads would be re-shaped to have long, sloping foreheads.

As for the hair: long hair was common for both men and women. Women wore their hair one way when they were unmarried and wore it another way when they became married.

The Maya sense of beauty also included crossed eyes. Crossed eyes were thought to be beautiful for women.

Noses were also an important feature when it came to Mayan ideas of good looks. A pronounced (big) nose was considered to be a beautiful nose. A practice existed in which a clay extension would be attached to the nose in order to make it appear larger.

Moving on to the teeth -- Mayans thought teeth were pretty when sharpened to points, which they did by filing them. Another tooth enhancement involved drilling a hole in the center of the front of various teeth, where a piece of jade would be inserted.

Another common practice for both men and women was the act of getting tattooed -- after becoming married.

As for piercings, in one way the Maya had one idea that is the same as what we see as pretty today: ear piercings. However, the ancient Maya seem to have thought that lip piercings and septum (the part of the nose that divides the nostrils) piercings were also pretty -- instead of seeing it as more unusual as we might.


The Ancient Maya; Jackie Maloy; 2010

The Archeology Course Book; Jim Grant, Sam Gorin, Neil Fleming; 2008

Clark College: Women in Ancient Mesoamerica


  1. This is incredible. I knew of their piercings and tattoos but the teeth stuff I had never heard of. Amazing.

  2. Hi there! It really does show how ideas of beauty can vary, doesn't it? And nothing I've read so far (though it's possible that could change, of course) indicates they used any kind of anesthetic -- ouch!

    1. That is nothing compared to the Maori. Look up the Maori Moko tattoos! talk about painful

    2. You are correct it did hurt. They had no anesthesia at the time. Honestly, compared to all that pain, I'd rather be ugly in their eyes( Not that they could probably see me as their eyes are crossed :) ).

    3. Yes, especially since some people have sensitive parts in their teeth.

  3. Wow really cool

  4. That would hurt to drill into your teeth!!