Estudios de cultura maya
Print version ISSN 0185-2574
TIESLER, Vera and ZABALA AGUIRRE, Pilar. Artificial Head Modification during the Colonial Era: A Mayan Tradition in the Mirror of Historical Sources. Estud. cult. maya [online]. 2011, vol.38, pp. 75-96. ISSN 0185-2574.
This paper contributes an alternative view on artificial head shaping practices among the Maya, which we examine through the lens of those European chroniclers who still witnessed it as a living practice during the colonial era. Unwillingly, these sources testify longstanding cultural motivations for the ancient tradition of modifying infants' vaults, which appear intimately tied to prehispanic Maya worldviews and daily ritual practices. The recognition of these motives provides a valuable point of departure for understanding the deeply embedded cultural roles this head practice once played. The last part of the paper compares and discusses the information provided by the colonial sources jointly with the results obtained from a study of seven colonial skeletal series from the Maya area. Our results confirm that Maya head modeling quickly dwindled within the urban spheres, where the European dominion was most immediate, while surviving over the centuries in the rural hinterlands and the forest refuges, like those of the historical Lacandons.
Keywords : head shaping; body modifications; Mesoamerica; Maya; colonial.