History has always been filled with unusual beauty practices. Previously, lead and arsenic were commonly used cosmetics, as was sulfuric acid to whiten teeth, and this is just the beginning (via The Tempest). Of course, every time period and region has its own set of beauty standards. During Medieval times, for example, thinness and ghostly paleness (which was highly sought after) were the opposite of what was the norm during the Renaissance (per Enchanted Living Magazine). In other words, what was considered beautiful in the past, would probably not be considered beautiful in later times. This brings us to the Mayans.
According to History, the Maya were an indigenous civilization that reached its peak between A.D. 250 and 900. They were located in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and other parts of Central America. Per Archaeology Archive, the Mayans went to great lengths to achieve what they believed to be perfection. Born with dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair, it’s what they did to modify themselves that some might find shocking today (via Revelations – The Initial Journey).
Mayan beauty standards were extreme
For the Mayans, beauty included an elongated head. This is said to be because it resembled an ear of corn. This was the main part of their diet, but also central to their creation story, the Popol Vuh, in which humans were created from corn (via Living Maya Time). According to Villa del Palmar, the altering of the Maya’s heads began at birth using trepanning. In this process, two boards are attached to a newborn’s head at an angle to press on the forehead, thus resulting in the elongated head (per Cancun to Chichen Itza).
Per Revelations – The Initial Journey, the Mayans also valued crossed-eyes. They would hang a piece of string with a stone in front of their baby’s eyes, causing them to focus and eventually lead the eyes to rotate inwards. Pointed teeth were a sign of beauty for Mayan women. They would file their teeth to achieve a corn kernel-like look, all without anesthesia (via Mayans and Tikal). Large beaked-shaped noses were prized and if they didn’t naturally have one, the Mayans used a removable nose bridge to get the shape.
Although these concepts of beauty are perhaps hard to understand, the Mayans took part in several practices that are considered the norm today. According to History on the Net, they pierced their ears, lips, and noses. Moreover, the nobility would inlay their teeth with precious stones, and tattoos in both men and women were common. Interestingly, it seems that art and not reality is what drove the Mayan beauty standards (via Archaeology Archive).
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