Mayan body modifications

filed under:
Image credit: 

Those of you who've seen Apocalypto may find yourselves wondering why a number of its characters sport funny-shaped heads and jewels embedded in their teeth. As it turns out, in this regard Mel Gibson is just being anthropologically correct: some Mayans really did modify their skulls' shape and have dental bling installed.

According to the digital scholars at Anthropology.net, the skulls were probably elongated by strapping boards to an infants' skull and constricting the bones from developing in a normal pattern. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing (without doing some gruesome tests of our own) what effect this had on practitioners, neurologically or otherwise. If it's anything like the brutal practice of footbinding in China, however, which effectively crippled millions of women between 900-1900 by making their feet into four-inch hoof-like things, then it likely had a profoundly negative effect on health.

Most Mayan skull modifications have been discovered in ornately-adorned burial sites, leading anthropologists to believe that the procedure was a status symbol -- not unlike breast implants in our Hollywood glitterati today. In either case, IMHO you've got to be a pretty dedicated follower of fashion to go under the knife for beauty -- or the skull-constricting wooden hat, for that matter.
maya_teeth.jpg

More from mental_floss...

December 11, 2006 - 3:44am
submit to reddit