[Webinar] Body Modifications, Social Identities, and Beauty in Ancient Mesoamerica

Natalie Arsenault's picture
March 1, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Archaeology, Latin American and Caribbean History / Studies

Monday, March 1, 2021 12:301:40 p.m. Central time

Vera Tiesler, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán / Future Tinker Visiting Professor, UChicago

Ancient Mesoamericans are known for their remarkable diversity and sophistication in dental works and artificial head shapes. These body modifications have come to light in thousands of archaeological burial explorations across Mesoamerica. While teeth were filed, painted, and inlaid during adolescence and adulthood, caretakers would modify the form of their baby’s head already during the first weeks and months of life. The practices inscribed notions of beauty and gender in their human carriers; some embodied the emblems of divine forces, imbued with native beliefs of the body and its role in the native universe.

In this talk, Tiesler will examine both permanent body modifications by combining studies on the skeletal record, ancient portraiture, and historical sources. From the early times of the Olmecs, the basic visual, behavioral, and social aspects attached to such body works appear unified, yet shifting across the Mesoamerican landscapes. The talk will close with an examination of the evolving roles of head shaping practices and native dental modifications past the European contact, providing food for thought in discussing Novohispanic domination strategies, resilience, and transformation.

Free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Contact Info: 

Natalie Arsenault, Associate Director, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Chicago

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