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9499 - The Painted Body at Chichen Itza

Coloring the face, hair, limbs and body served a multitude of purposes among the Maya. It could demarcate social status, ethnic identity, gender, age, occupation, and ritual participation. On a more practical level, it served as camouflage and to protect from mosquitoes and the sun. Body painting and tattooing were sometimes employed simply to enhance beauty. While colonial sources tend to be laconic and contradictory regarding tattooing and body painting, they are nevertheless useful for elucidating Mesoamerican bodily practices at the time of the Conquest. The large corpus of painted walls and low relief sculptures at Chichén Itzá provides one of the most comprehensive records of ancient Maya body painting, due in part to the work of early 20th century copyists who were able to fix on paper the fugitive colors of exposed murals and reliefs. In this paper I will analyze body decoration at Chichén to determine how it functioned among the northern Maya of the Terminal Classic period and whether it represents a regional or temporal variation of such decoration at more distant or earlier sites. Since the murals and reliefs at the site that feature human participants tend to focus on warfare and its aftermath, painted or tattooed bodies will be examined to determine if the decoration marks military rank, groups in conflict, or winner vs. loser.

Keywords: cosmético, perfume, color, mesoamérica

Author: Miller, Virginia E (University of Illinois at Chicago, Ud States of Am / USA)

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