Jade tooth decorations in Mayan skull


David Dennis took this photo of a Mayan skull with jade tooth decorations.


At the height of Mayan civilization, body modification included a variety of alterations of the teeth.


Holes in the teeth were created by spinning a drill with a bow (as in firestarting), and using powdered quartz as an abrasive.



  1. Don’t be all up in mah grill ‘less you want to help out with the drought.

    You know. With your heart.

  2. One of the last things I remember was saying to the high priest “Look, you’ve got some spinach there” …

  3. i always thought the mayans were cool and an interesting people. but now that i know they invented putting jewelry in teeth, i just dont think ill have the same respect for them ever again :-(

  4. @ Muteboy.

    I presume from your web address that you are from the UK? Well…guess what? Me too. Your sarcasm (as I assume it is) is even lamer than my post because guess what? I wasn’t being totally serious! In fact…not serious at all!!! It was merely because I don’t get the “British have bad teeth thing at all”.

    If it wasn’t, disregard and carry on.

  5. Hey psst…you got a piece of somethin’ stuck… there… no, it’s still there. no… still there. still there. still there. still there. still there.

  6. That must have hurt like hell. How did those things stay in? Why you would purposely injure people, in times where a broken bone could mean death?

  7. Also want to know how it stayed in.
    This was pre-dental-epoxy, i believe.

    also, How babby is made?


  8. This is OLD news to archaeologists. The Mayan began the practice in the Pre Classic and it continued until the beginning of the Post Classic. They also used polished iron pyrite, hematite and turquoise. Various filing techniques were also used for tooth decoration. The Mayan also had at least 33 types of plants available to render the patient insensitive.

  9. Why you would purposely injure people, in times where a broken bone could mean death?

    There was probably an evolutionary element of “I survived this, I’m worth breeding with.”

  10. these are some of the mayan’s tamer body mods. we are talking about people who have no compunction whatsoever to taking a thin rope or vine with rose thorns, big ones and lots of ’em, woven into the strand, the priests, kings and royal men would run the vine in through the urethra of their penises, and down thru a hole pierced there for the purpose. the women use holes pierced into their labia majora, and labia minora. the ropes were then pulled through the holes one way ( these ropes were usually several feet in length, depending on the ceremony), then pulled back the other way, as many times as the person could stand it. sometimes the people would be joined together via the rope, sometimes individually or just from a single individual. the blood shed from the genitalia was offered as a gift to one god,or godess or another. apparently blood from one’s junk is much tastier to the mayan deities. mmmm, crotchblood.

  11. This jade grill work is pretty sweet. As a dental professional, it is hard to ignore the periodontal disease that was present at the time of this person’s death- the teeth that are still present are barely hangin’ in there! Has anyone else noticed that the tooth to the right in the picture is in the wrong place? The two jaded teeth should be right next to each other in the center of the smile. It looks as though this tooth, which is the right central incisor according to it’s physical anatomy (right front tooth) fell out and someone replaced it (post-mortem) into the place where a canine tooth should be. Yes, I am a dental nerd.

  12. apparently blood from one’s junk is much tastier to the mayan deities. mmmm, crotchblood.

    Couldn’t the women just handle that on their own without any thorn ropes?

  13. Laugh if you want- this shit had to hurt. “Grillz”, as far as I know, are like caps- they are molded around the teeth.

    These are actually BORED INTO the teeth, basically, plugs in teeth made of jade. Badass.

    Question to any dentists who might come here- can this be done in the modern era? If so, what kind of permanent side effects are we talking?

  14. Yep — you can do this in the modern era.

    Diamond Teeth Mary (http://www.aaregistry.com/detail.php?id=2461) was a blues singer who, when times were good, had eight of the diamonds from her bracelet implanted in her front teeth. Years later, when times were bad, she had to have the stones taken out so she could hock them. When she performed, she’d put gum wrappers over those teeth so no one could see the holes.

    She continued to belt out the blues until her death in 2000 — she was well into her 90s at the time, and could still rock a house like few can at half her age.

  15. #13, nehpetsE:

    Also want to know how it stayed in.

    Yes, I was wondering that, too. A quick google suggests ‘plant adhesive‘.

    #10, redrichi:

    I don’t get the “British have bad teeth thing at all”.

    Me neither. My (British) other half was told by a French friend that she had ‘English teeth’- not because of their condition, but their size; apparently (some of) the French think English people have particularly large teeth.

  16. I’m calling BULL on Mintphresh unless he/she can offer a citation. I’ve been an archaeologist for 30 years, have traveled extensively in Central America, and know of no recorded mention of this. The vast majority of Mayan codices were destroyed by the Spanish. Other than forgeries, only four remain in readable condition. As far as I’m aware, only the journals of the earliest Spanish priests would have noted this sort of behavior. Do you have ANY academic source for this?

  17. JKIT@#19 is probably right. I am no dentist or doctor but it appears the the teeth were inserted incorrectly. It looks like a central maxillary incisor on the left is placed where the maxillary canine should go. In other words, as JKIT points out, the jaded tooth on the right should be in the front to the left of the other incisor, assuming it is from the same skull. Is there a doctor in the house?

  18. Maybe the jade was was put into the teeth of captive, the teeth extracted and used to replace missing teeth of the current skull?

  19. Did the Mayans also put in the molly bolt that extends from the left eye socket down into the nasal cavity? You can see the spring wrapped around the end inside the nose quite clearly.

  20. I’m perfectly aware of ritual bloodletting, but not to the sensationalized level of the mintphresh description – and I would still like some sort of original citation for this, it isn’t from the four surviving codices, so does it come from Catholic journals, glyph translation or hearsay or what?

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