Ancient Mexico`s dead got makeovers

Last Updated: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 16:11

Washington: Death didn`t mean the end of beauty for pre-Hispanic civilisations, as the ancient Teotihuacans exhumed their dead and painted them with cosmetics in periodic remembrance rituals, a new study claims.

Researchers analysed for the first time remains of cosmetics in the graves of prehispanic civilisations in what is now Mexico 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.

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

"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 practise a kind of remembrance worship of the deceased high nobility," said Maria Teresa Domenech Carbo, 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 like 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," said Domenech in a statement.

"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," Domenech said.

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.


First Published: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 16:11

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