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The Adorned Body

The Adorned Body
Mapping Ancient Maya Dress

The Adorned Body is the first truly comprehensive book on what the ancient Maya wore, a systematic survey of dress and ornaments, from head to toe and everything in between.

Series: The Linda Schele Endowment in Maya and Pre Columbian Studies

September 2020
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248 pages | 8.5 x 11 | 8 b&w photos, 44 color and 313 b&w illus. |

How we dress our bodies—through clothing, footwear, headgear, jewelry, haircuts, and more—is key to the expression of status and identity. This idea was as true for ancient Maya civilization as it is today, yet few studies have centered on what ancient Maya peoples wore and why. In The Adorned Body, Nicholas Carter, Stephen Houston, and Franco Rossi bring together contributions from a wide range of scholars, leading to the first in-depth study of Maya dress in pre-Columbian times.

Incorporating artistic, hieroglyphic, and archaeological sources, this book explores the clothing and ornaments of ancient Maya peoples, systematically examining who wore what, deducing the varied purposes and meanings of dress items and larger ensembles, and determining the methods and materials with which such items were created. Each essay investigates a category of dress—including headgear, pendants and necklaces, body painting, footwear, and facial ornaments—and considers the variations within each of these categories, as well as popular styles and trends through time. The final chapters reveal broader views and comparisons about costume ensembles and their social roles. Shedding new light on the art and archaeology of the ancient Americas, The Adorned Body offers a thorough map of Maya dress that will be of interest to scholars and fashion enthusiasts alike.

  • 1. The Adorned Body (Stephen Houston, Nicholas Carter, and Franco Rossi)
  • 2. The Clothed Body (Nicholas Carter, Alyce de Carteret, and Katharine Lukach)
  • 3. The Painted Body (Katharine Lukach and Jeffrey Dobereiner)
  • 4. The Capped Body (Nicholas Carter and Alyce de Carteret)
  • 5. The Diademed Body (Franco Rossi, Katharine Lukach, and Jeffrey Dobereiner)
  • 6. The Bejeweled Body (Nicholas Carter)
  • 7. The Collared Body (Mallory Matsumoto and Cara Tremain)
  • 8. The Girded Body (Alyce de Carteret and Jeffrey Dobereiner)
  • 9. The Shod Body (Franco Rossi and Alyce de Carteret)
  • 10. The Varied Body (Cara Tremain)
  • 11. The Moving Body (Mallory Matsumoto)
  • Coda (Stephen Houston, Franco Rossi, and Nicholas Carter)
  • References
  • Index

Nicholas Carter

Nicholas Carter is an assistant professor of anthropology at Texas State University.

Stephen D. Houston

Stephen D. Houston is the Dupee Family Professor of Social Sciences at Brown University and the author of many books, including The Life Within: Classic Maya and the Matter of Permanence, which won a PROSE Award in 2014.

Franco D. Rossi

Franco D. Rossi is the Austen-Stokes Ancient Americas Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History of Art at the Johns Hopkins University. His research uses archaeological approaches to explore the relationship among art, education systems, and statecraft in ancient Mesoamerica.


“The contributors [to The Adorned Body]...quite compellingly explore the objectives and reception of specific symbolism, especially in public ceremonies and processions. The authors draw on a rich corpus of basic data, including hundreds of richly painted ceramics and abundant frescoes painted on white plastered walls in temples, palaces, and other venues...The chapters are well illustrated, and fortunately there is a section of color illustrations in the center of the book...Recommended.”

The Adorned Body provides a complete and exhaustive survey on dress and fashion among the ancient Maya...This book represents a brief and clear but comprehensive review on ancient Maya clothing. It will be of interest as a first approach to this subject or as a useful support for scholars who need to widen or develop their knowledge on the topic, thanks to the richness of references given about others’ works...The book also provides a whole perception of the human body in Mesoamerican civilization.”
Journal of Dress History

“The authors play with physical realities as well as theoretical concerns, exploring each aspect of clothing or adornment from hieroglyphic, material, and (ancient) social perspectives. I did not know I wanted or needed to know about all of these adornments, but now I realize what I was missing. This work is fresh and clearly written.”
James L. Fitzsimmons, Middlebury University, author of Death and the Classic Maya Kings

“Full of unexpected insights, The Adorned Body is a tremendously helpful synthesis of a broad range of ancient Maya practices of dress and self-presentation. Written in clear and accessible prose, and amply illustrated, each chapter examines vocabulary, materiality, spatial and temporal patterns of distribution, and social factors affecting a different kind of adornment, from diadems to shoes.  The result is a foundational survey that will interest specialists and novices alike.”
Claudia Brittenham, University of Chicago, author of The Murals of Cacaxtla


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca