Agustin SelvaIt was a punishment for a Maya to have his or her hair cut. Both men and women wore their thick, black hair long, although there were differences in the type of headdresses they wore.

Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley, an eminent Mayanist archaeologist, states that the Maya displayed great magnificence in their headdresses. The frame was probably made from wicker or wood, shaped in the form of the head of a jaguar, bird, or serpent, or perhaps the head of one of their gods.

The frames were covered with jaguar skin, mosaic of feathers, and carved jade, and crowned with high plumes of feathers. Sometimes the plume formed a rigid crest of feathers, and always was the most noticeable part of the adornment and indicated the social class of the person. Nobles, for example, used bouquets of flowers and aromatic herbs, according to the “Historia de Yucatán”, by Fray Diego López de Cogolludo.

The Maya had a custom of eliminating the extension of the back part of the head, keeping the face completely round and the top almost flattened. Historians relate that the deformation was achieved by binding or compressing a newborn’s head between two concave splints, adjusted by a tourniquet whose pressure was continuously increased. As well, mothers used hot towels to burn the faces of their sons and thereby prevent beards from growing.

In his book “La Civilización Maya”, Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley states that the men burned the top of the head in order to keep it free of hair. Then they braided the rest of the long hair and rolled the braid into a sort of crown, leaving a tail which fell down the back.

The women divided their long hair into two parts, or they braided it at the back, and then tied it in different ways with a headdress. It is said that they took great care of their hair and combed it in various styles. The hairstyle of a married woman was different from that of a single woman.

Throughout history, the choices of hairstyles has resulted in a sign of cultural, social, or ethnic identity, and can even reflect social status as well as individual personal characteristics.

By: Yurina Fernández Noa

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