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Maya Beauty Standards: A way to worship deity

Maya Beauty Standards: A way to worship deity

Ever since the birth of humanity, every society has had a beauty standard. In the previous blog post, we learn the Chinese preferred the tiny lotus-shaped foot so much that they were willing to endure any great pain. The Maya, one of the earliest civilizations in this society, had a set of their beauty standards. Below are some example of the Maya beauty standards.

Maya beauty standards

In this day and age, social media is what shapes our beauty standards. Magazines say beauty is tall, slim women and muscular men. We buy make-up stuffs, fashionable clothes, shoes, bags, we dye their hair, and we can do mostly whatever we can to make us look better. In the realm of beauty, the Maya had a mindset totally different from us. They took great pride in their appearance and they linked their beauty standard with their religious belief. For the close connection with religions, the Mayas were willing to endure extremes of pain to get their favorite look.

Long sloping head

The Maya had a God of Wildlife, Yum Kaxx. They worshipped this god for being the Maize God. For their deeply-ingrained faith in Yum Kaxx, they viewed their god as the beauty standard. Somehow, the god’s head resembled the corn. That is the corn became narrow toward the top and the Maya found the long sloping head attractive.

Maya beauty standards of elongated head
The Mayans loved the elongated head. Because in their belief, they worshipped Yum Kaxx, god of maize. Artifact of Mayan remains.
Yum Kaxx Mayan God of Maize
Yum Kaxx Mayan God of Maize

Treepanning, the process to re-shape the head, the parents would flatten the skull of the newly-born baby. Because the skull of the baby was not as strong as that of the adult, this was an ideal time to make the forehead slope up and backward. The parents would place two boards at the angle to make an angle pressing against the forehead.

These boards would be there for several days. Also, the Mayan parents would continuously press the boards against the forehead to make a desirable shape.

The archaeologists used to think that the number of Mayans having long sloping heads were a few. Because they were so unique that they thought it was a symbol of nobility. But the archaeological evidence pointed out that up to 90% of the skulls were elongated.

Crossed eyes

The Maya also found the crossed eyes beautiful. In the Mayan religious belief, their Sun Lord had crossed eyes. Any child born with this physical trait would be considered to be either beautiful or handsome.

Maya beauty standards. The Maya prefered crossed eyes for they resembled the eye of their Sun Lord
The Maya loved crossed eyes because they resembled the eyes of their Sun Lord

The newly born children with normal eye position would endure a process of re-positioning their eyes. The parents would make for their children a headband around their head. They would hang a stone along the head and between the eyes of the baby. By continuously doing this, the Mayans believed that the children’s eyes would become crossed.

Large and hooked nose

To the Mayans, a beautiful and perfect nose was a large and hooked nose. For the artwork that dated back to the time of Maya civilization, we can see that the Mayans prefered a large nose with a break.

The Mayans loved large and hooked nose. Artifact dating back to the Mayan times.
The Mayans loved large and hooked nose. Artifact dating back to the Mayan times.

If the Mayans were not born with this physical trait, they would use a removable artificial nose bridge to give their nose a break shape.

Pointed teeth with stone

The Mayans loved pointed teeth. This, according to the scholars, might be because that pointed teeth resembled the corn kernels. For the wealthy and noble Mayans, they would drill holes and attach precious stones on their teeth.

Piercing and Tattoo

Like many other societies, the Mayans loved wearing jewelry. They pierced their nose, ear, lips, etc. They wore earrings, ear-bobs, etc. As gold was not common in Mayan territory, the archaeologists often found the remains of jewelry with precious stones and jades.

In the Mayan civilization, tattoo was also popular. But it was a process of great pain and often caused infection. The tattoo artist would paint a design on the body of the Mayan men and women. Then they would cut into the bodies along the lines that they had already drawn. The scars after the process became the tattoo of the Mayans. Accordingly, to the Mayans, their tattoos were also a symbol of bravery.


It is true that what the Mayans once held dear were completely different from us. Every year passing the idea of beauty evolves and the Mayans lived 4,000 years ago. Gone are the days of the great civilization of Mayans. But Maya beauty standards and tales remain. It is not the right reaction when we look at the Mayan beauty standards and disgust them. Rather, it is a value that we should learn to understand how the ancient people once lived with and treasured. For we never want the future generation to look back at ours and feel disgust.

One thing we learn about the Maya beauty standards is that the ancient people were so affected by their religion. In our days, we might just worship the High Power of our own faith but we do not want to look like them. Because it is the modern concept of respect. But in the Mayan society, they wanted their physical look resemble their god which was a way to worship their deities.

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