Mortuary Correlates of Maya Cranial Shaping in the Pasion Region
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In the Pasión region of the Southern Lowlands of Guatemala, the ancient Maya practiced various types of intentional cranial shaping. This permanent body modification was employed by different techniques, such as constricting bands wrapped circumferentially around the head or the use of compression devices, in order to attain desired head shapes. Using cranial data gathered from the sites within the Pasión region (such as Altar de Sacraficios, Seibal, Aguateca, Dos Pilas, and Tamarindito) along with the corresponding mortuary data, this paper evaluates the relationship between social status in ancient Maya society and the presence or absence of cranial shaping as well as the different types of cranial shapes. The mortuary data serve as a means to distinguish the social status of individuals in ancient Maya society be the presence or number of certain grave goods as well as the actual method of interment. The use of chi-square tests and Fisher’s Exact tests allows this hypothesis to be addressed. The results show that there is no correspondence among the presence or absence of cranial modification and the mortuary data and therefore no correlation to social class. However, there are statistically significant results that exhibit patterning chronologically as well as among the sites which is consistent with cranial modification being more of an ethnic or culture change in the Pasión region.
SubjectCranial shaping, Cranial modification, Maya, Pasion region, Mortuary analysis, Boiarchaeology
Biggs, Jack (2013). Mortuary Correlates of Maya Cranial Shaping in the Pasion Region. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from