Date:

The Teotihuacans exhumed their dead and dignified them with make-up

View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun, from Pyramid of the Moon (Pyramide de la Luna) : Wiki Commons

- Advertisement -

In collaboration with the National University of Mexico, a team of Spanish researchers has analysed for the first time remains of cosmetics in the graves of prehispanic civilisations on the American continent.

In the case of the Teotihuacans, these cosmetics were used as part of the after-death ritual to honour their city’s most important people.

A research team from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the University of Valencia has studied various funerary samples found in urns in the Teotihuacan archaeological site (Mexico) that date from between 200 and 500 AD.

The scientists have been researching Mayan wall paintings in Mexico and Guatemala since 2006. Published in the ‘Journal of Archaeological Science‘, this project came about after contact on various occasions with other researchers in the area, namely the National University of Mexico, who wanted to know the composition and function of the cosmetics found in pots.

Reproduction of the murals in the Cacaxtla

“The conclusion that we have reached, given the structure of the pigments found, is that they are remains of cosmetics that were used in rituals following burial. At that time it was common to periodically practice a kind of remembrance worship of the deceased high nobility,” as explained to SINC by María Teresa Domenech Carbo, director of the University Institute of Heritage Restoration of the Polytechnic University of Valencia and lead author of the study.

In these rituals the high priest of the city would conduct a ceremony in the dwelling of the most noble of citizens (nobility, princes and kings). The reason for this is that unlike today where graves are located in special places, in those days the deceased were buried underneath the floor of their homes.

“The priest would go to the home and would pay homage to the deceased with the family present. Cosmetics were used by the priest carrying out the ceremony and formed a part of the ritual. The remains of carbonaceous particles found lead to the belief that aromatic material were burnt, with the priest painting parts of the body with those pigments. In addition, it is probable that the body was removed and ‘redecorated’ too,” explains Domenech.

- Advertisement -

Furthermore, the researchers outline that although we could think that these materials in the urns belonged to the deceased in life and were put in the grave to accompany their owner into the ‘new life’, as in the case of the Egyptians, the fact that the make-up did not contain any agglutinative substance (an organic vehicle that allows make-up to stick to the face or body) leads us to believe that they had more of a symbolic nature.

“It is not very frequent to find cosmetic products in archaeological excavations in America. These are the first on this continent to be analysed in a serious and systematic way,” ensures the researcher. In Europe and Africa, mainly in countries such as Italy and Egypt, the analysis of cosmetic products is more common. Teotihuacan is one of the most important and most visited archaeological sites in Mexico thanks to its close location to Mexico City and its spectacular great Mayan pyramid.

Flowing trade in Prehispanic Mexico

As well as providing more knowledge on the funerary rituals of this millennium-old culture, the cosmetic remains found help us to identify the social relevance of the buried individuals and they prove the existence of fluid commerce between the different areas of Mexico. The scientists found material coming from the surroundings of Teotihuacan, such as pulverised volcanic rock pigments and other clay-like types typical of the area’s geology.

Mica : Wiki Commons

Nonetheless, some remains, such as those mica and jarosite particles found, are not native to the surroundings and were probably imported from different parts of Mexico. This, in turn, confirms the existence of trade. “No surprise since this city dominated the entire Mesoamerican region and it has been shown that fluid trade existed in certain southern areas,” points out the researcher.

In addition, the appearance of these remains with the body of the deceased indicates their social status. “Unless the person was very important to this civilisation they were not buried with cosmetic products. The deceased would have had to hold an important position in society, such as that of a king, a prince or a high noble,” ensures the expert.

Following this study, the research team analysed another collection of cosmetic material in the region of Guatemala. The results are currently awaiting publication.

Contributing Source : FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

LiDAR identifies lost settlements in the forests of Campeche

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have identified ancient settlements in the forests of Campeche using LiDAR.

Greco-Roman era tombs found west of Aswan

Archaeologists have discovered 33 tombs dating from the Greco-Roman period during excavations in the area of the Aga Khan mausoleum, west of Aswan, Egypt.

Golden primrose among new discoveries at Auckland Castle

Archaeologists from the Auckland Project are conducting excavations at Auckland Castle to unearth the home of Sir Arthur Haselrig, a leader of the Parliamentary opposition to Charles I.

Archaeologists search for lost world beneath the Gulf of Mexico

A multinational team, including researchers from the University of Bradford, is conducting a study in the Gulf of Mexico to identify submerged landscapes from the last Ice Age.

Archaeologists discover giant monumental structure

Archaeologists from the University of Hradec Králové have discovered a giant mound structure during preliminary archaeological investigations along the route of the D35 Plotiště-Sadová highway in Czechia.

Viking ship discovered at Jarlsberg Hovedgård

Archaeologists have discovered a Viking ship burial northwest of Tønsberg in Vestfold county, Norway.

Update : Ming Dynasty shipwrecks

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has released an update on the current recovery efforts of two Ming Dynasty shipwrecks in the South China Sea.

Study reveals new insights into life at “German Stonehenge”

Excavations of the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, nicknamed the “German Stonehenge”, has revealed new insights into domestic life from prehistory.