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August 13
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Maya Women Hairstyles of the Classic Period by Kamazotz Maya Women Hairstyles of the Classic Period by Kamazotz
As the title states, Maya women hairstyles of the Classic period. I will soon do the men...

Organized it by region. The vast majority you will notice, have no place specified. This is due to the immense looting that occurs in ancient Maya and Mesoamerican artworks, so the provenance is sometimes unknown. Which is a shame, because a lot information is lost without such context. Not to mention unregistered works easily fall into the black market which usually ends in private collectors hands...Also many sites are damaged or destroyed from the excessive looting.

Thought I needed to bring some attention to that but anyway, about these hairstyles.

They mostly date from the late classic period 600-900 CE. Some may be a little older than the year 600, but I believe 95% are contained within these 300 years. The classic period is named so, due to the high complexity of elite life, the grandiose nature of the cities that celebrated this splendor and a time many consider to be the height of Maya civilization. This is not to say earlier and later periods did not have their own hallmarks. The Classic period was also a time filled with extensive warfare between independent powerful cities that had smaller cities either in alliance or under their influence. As would be expected, alliances were broken, formed and reformed. It was a very volatile period with shifting power going from one dynasty or city to the next. It was also a time, when Kings and Queens acted as the high priests and donned titles and names of Gods. Thanks to the decipherment of the Maya writing system recently, some of their history in this time and in the past can be worked into a timeline that documents the chronology, conquests, history and other important events that occurred. There is still much to learn from this period, and it will be exciting to see what treasures have yet to be revealed.

The Maya region in the Classic period comprises of the Mexican states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo; Guatemala; Belize; Western and Central El Salvador and Western Honduras. One of the reasons I chose to do the Classic period was because of the extensive amount of artwork I found available for this period. This made documenting the primary sources: vase paintings, murals, stelae, ceramics etc. easier but more exhaustive due to the sheer amount of things I found. There's some that did not make it here, but it would take too long to do them all, so I did as many as I could while keeping my sanity lol. Also, due to the naturalistic/realistic art of this period in Maya art, things were much clearer to reproduce. Art in the classic period was more concerned with describing, while art in the later, postclassic period was more concerned with symbolism. (Houston:2009)

The Face and Head

Now about the Maya women in this period.... The epitome of femininity in Maya culture, was the Moon. As such, many women styled themselves in her fashion. Probably for aesthetic and religious reasons. At least one of these however is actually a dancing man dressed as a woman. I included him here however, since he was supposed to represent a woman. In Maya theater today, it is common to have male actors/dancers pose as female characters. Common colors women painted their faces and bodies with were white, red, and sometimes black. The white reminds us of the Moon, who was often described as white. The red is likely for aesthetic reasons. In the Postclassic period, vain women were said to wear red paint as a mark of beauty. This red also gave a pleasant fragrance to the skin. Though it needed to be reapplied every couple of days, especially since the Maya bathed very frequently for religious and hygienic purposes.  The red color was a red hematite mixed with mica. While the white color came from calcium carbonate minerals like aragonite, calcite and dolomite limestones which were sometimes found in mollusk shells or seashells. (Houston:2009)Tattoos were also probably applied but it doesn't seem to be a common feature (it likely came into style more towards the end of the postclassic period just before contact with Spaniards).

Their faces were also made more beautiful through body and facial modification, such as scarification. Little lumps on the skin can sometimes be seen on the women or scarred line on their faces. Piercings are also prevalent, mostly in the ears. Though sometimes the nose was also pierced. The type of piercing largely depended on the social status of the person. As well as the jewels that were used. For commoners, bones, wood, or stones of lesser value were used. For nobles, shell, obsidian, jade, and other precious stones were used. Dental inlays are also observed in some people, particularly the elites. Jade or in one case found in El Salvador, fool's gold was inlaid into the teeth (see San Andres). One woman here is shown displaying her teeth. Lastly, the most notable feature is their sloped heads, which appears to be common among the nobles in Maya society. This was done in their infancy by mothers when their skulls were still weak and soft enough to manipulate the shape. Two boards were held together, and the child's head  was placed in between when they slept to modify the skulls shape. This practice did not effect their brain size and development contrary to what many believe. The reason for this is believed to be associated with fertility, to celebrate the cults of maize, to transform their heads closer in appearance to the maize that gave them sustenance - also it was humanity itself, according to Maya creation stories, that were made out of maize. Due to this, it was also a sign of beauty. 

Hairstyles and Headdresses 

The hair was arranged in complex braids with ribbons, cloth, wood, paper, feathers, jewels and other materials. There seems to be little consistency, at least in my observation in how the hair or headdress was arranged. The most elaborate were likely only used in special occasions like rituals and ceremonies since they don't seem practical for everyday use and they are usually only seen in commemorations of such special events. Most of these probably represent elites, although those listed under Calakmul show the commoners, taken from a mural in that city. It should be noted though that Calakmul or Kan was in fact a very powerful city ruled by the Serpent lords. Their largest rivals being the Hairknot dynasty of Mutal or Tikal. Some figures wear sombrero like hats. Interestingly many of them appear in marriage scenes by different women, the female members of the families of the bride and/or groom? In some instances it is worn on other occasions like with the women in Calakmul who are shown preparing food and doing mundane activities. In other instances, the hat was worn by traveling males.

In some headdresses you may notice a brush sticking outwards, these are indicators of scribes, as the artists and writers of the Maya were both male and female. When the Spanish friars arrived, these scribes were banned from writing their books. In abandoning this ancient practice of theirs, they were instead taught to read and write their Mayan language in the romantic alphabet, to help Christianize their fellow Maya. Sadly, due to this, there was no place for Maya women scribes, and so this craft disappeared, as Spanish friars did not believe it was good to give women advanced education. As such they only trained other males to write. It is worth noting that even so, the males who were given an education had to write culturally relevant things in secret because of the watchful eye of the inquisition who often burned these works and tortured the people who made them. 

Some of the hair also appears to be dyed with colors, red being the most observed. Though sometimes white and and yellow appear too.


The mentioned places are Mutal (Tikal), Guatemala; Kan (Calakmul), Mexico; B'aakal (Palenque), Mexico; Oxwitik (Copan), Honduras; Rio Azul, Guatemala; Jaina, Mexico; Bonampak, Mexico; Dos Pilas, Guatemala; Yaxchilan, Mexico; Waka (El Peru), Guatemala;  Ik, Guatemala; Chama, Guatemala; Piedras Negras, Guatemala; Campeche, Mexico; Northern Yucatan, Mexico; Tayasal, Guatemala.

If you are curious about the source for a particular or a set of particular examples I drew feel free to leave me a comment and ask me. These are all based 100% on primary sources, so I'd have to put up over 151 links....Obviously, I can't show them all here. But feel free to ask if you are curious about one or a number of these. :)

-Coe, D. Michael. 2011. The Maya (Eighth Edition). 
-Finamore and Houston. 2010.  Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea.
-Foster, V. Lynn. 2002.  Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World. 
-Houston, Stephen. 2009. Veiled in Brightness: A History of Ancient Maya color.
-Looper, G. Mathews. To be Like the Gods: Dance in Ancient Maya Civilization.
-Simon, Martin; Stuart, David; Vargas, Carrasco Ramon; Cordeiras, Maria; Romero, Bernal Guillermo; Cruz, Gonzales Arnoldo; Borgstede, Greg. 2012.  Maya Archaeology 2: Featuring the Ancient Maya Murals of Calakmul, Mexico.
-Tedlock, Dennis. 2011. 2000 Years of Mayan Literature.………

Now onto the males! And next, Aztec or Central America? 

I know number 20 is wrong, it was a mistake :P the zero is supposed to be on top not on the bottom. Also I have 8 more I will add to this. Until I get my drive fixed though, I cannot do any changes as I have no access to the original file ;_;
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Dgarauz Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2014
Muy bueno, un aporte muy interesante e instructivo.
Kamazotz Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2014  Professional General Artist
iMariposa Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for sharing this! It's very interesting!
Kamazotz Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2014  Professional General Artist
Youre welcome thanks for checking it out!
Mytforskare Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2014  Student General Artist
Wow! It's amazing to see this with colour! It's such a fantastic compilation of hairstyles, so it's a treat to see it! As always, I love the explanation that you write under your historical pieces. Thank you for bringing this much needed delight into the world.
Kamazotz Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2014  Professional General Artist
You're welcome!
Sir-Aedan-McCromlech Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Increíble! Simplemente anonadado y Maravillado!!!
Kamazotz Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014  Professional General Artist
XibalbaPiixan Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014  Student Interface Designer
Tú trabajo es excelente, es muy ilustrativo. Te agradezco mucho lo que he podido aprender hoy gracias a tu ilustración :D
Kamazotz Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014  Professional General Artist
No hay de que jaja. Gracias a ti. Lo hago para difundir mas a estas grandes culturas. :D
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