The famous Maya civilization, with their legendary blood sacrifice, inquiring art and impressive architecture, saw dawn sometime during 2600 B.C. While Europe still slumbered during the Dark Ages, the Mayan culture had thrived and achieved a vast knowledge of astronomy, hieroglyphs and advanced calendars. The Maya people lived in South America and their center of culture was located in Mexico and Guatemala.
The peak of the Maya culture started during 300 B.C. when the Maya got organized into a complicated society structure with nobles and kings, who ruled different parts of the country. The Maya culture declined and was more or less extinct during the 900 A.D., but a fraction of the Maya culture continued to exist until the early sixteenth century when the Spanish Conquest arrived. Many theories exist concerning the question why the Maya culture declined and the scientists still haven’t been able to unravel all of the mysteries of the Maya culture.
The archeological buildings and relics found today in remote parts in the jungle are amazing, done by a culture that didn’t practice the use of metal tools or had invented the wheel. The Maya cleared down the extremely lush rain forest and created architectural wonders in form of their famous temple pyramids, religious centers and a highly advanced system for water reservoirs and irrigation. All made without metal tools or rolling wheels, one can but marvel at how well evolved a culture must be to perform such a task, and indeed the Maya culture was highly developed. They spread their knowledge by using a complicated system of hieroglyphs and their society was strictly divided into different social groups.
The Maya practiced the traditions of both piercing and tattooing. The traditional piercing is made by a sharp tool that is allowed to penetrate the soft tissue of the body, e.g. ears, nose or lips. A small ornament is then carefully placed through the pierced skin and the wound is left to heal around the jewelry.
Since the piercing jewelry often is made by precious or rare materials, such as jade or gold, they usually signal wealth and privilege. Some specific piercing ornaments may also only be permitted to be worn during special ceremonies or occasions. Archeologists have found figurines in ancient graves that have been decorated with different piercings, such as ear, nose and lip ornaments.
The act of piercing or tattooing is usually a part of a ceremony that can be a part of changing social roles, for example change in status or marriage. The tattoos in the Maya culture are believed to symbolize courage for the bearer.
In South America mummies have been found with tattoos dating to the 11th century and the tradition of tattoos and piercing lives on today, but is not only restricted to the ancient culture of the Maya.