The Norse Vikings and the MesoAmerican Maya were by no means the same.
Their cultures were very different and unique from one another. However, there were a few similarities practiced between the two cultures.
1. Both the Maya and Viking cultures modified their teeth.
The Vikings filed their teeth.
A Swedish anthropologist analyzed 557 Viking skeletons dating from A.D. 800 to 1050 and discovered that 24 of them bore deep, horizontal grooves across their upper front teeth. It is believed that they did this to look more fierce to their enemies.
Vikings may have learned the practice of filing their teeth from a foreign culture, as the Norse are well known for their acquisitive habits. Additionally, it’s the first time that dental modification—a practice found in cultures around the world—has been seen in human skeletons from Europe.
The Maya had holes drilled in their teeth and then had the holes filled with gems.
The glittering “grills” of some hip-hop stars aren’t exactly an original concept. The Maya had been doing it for millennia. These Native MesoAmericans developed a sophisticated form of dentistry that allowed them to add bling to their teeth as far back as 2,500 years ago.
The Maya used a drill-like device with a sharp hard stone such as obsidian, which is capable of puncturing bone, to burrow holes through their teeth and then they had cut gems fitted into them.
Also, many Maya and Viking warriors were known to file their teeth into sharp jagged edges with the intent of terrifying their enemies.
2. Both cultures came to an end by Christendom.
The age of the Vikings came to an end when Christianity took a firm hold on the lands.
But it wasn’t just coming under the hand of a new religion that changed how things were. The Norse were entering into a new concept of being ruled by a centralized kingdom and empire. This was a whole new concept to the independent folk of the North. They no longer were in charge of their own lives.
This was true with the Maya. The culture and sense of identity of both the Norse and Maya were nearly erased when Christianity was forced upon the survivors. All records and writings of the previous culture and religions were burned and temples destroyed as churches were erected in their places. A new sense of identity and language was forced upon them with the addition of a new religion that was to be strictly adhered to.
The new foreign kingdom’s church now shaped and decided everything.
They were now Norwegian subjects of Denmark and the Holy Church of Rome; or Subjects to the Vice-royalty of Spain and his Holiness the Pope.
Both the knowledge and culture of the Norse and Maya were nearly lost to history forever.
3. Both the Old Norse and Maya Cultures weren’t united as a single kingdom or empire.
Neither the Norse people nor the Maya identified themselves as ‘Norse” or “Maya.”
Those are the titles given to them by history and outsiders. Both civilizations were actually a collection of smaller groups that merely shared the same language and culture.
Most Norse lived in a village connected to a Jarldom, which was ruled by a local Jarl. Although the title often varied, a ‘Jarl’ was the most commonly used title for a Scandinavian chieftain or noble. This was whether they ruled autonomously as a chieftain or as a feudal dignity under another Petty Kingdom. The Norse were not a united kingdom or empire and didn’t even have a word for their people. The typical Norsemen referred to himself by his name and his father’s name and from what tribe or land they were from (ex. ‘Erik Thorvaldsson of Norway’ or ‘Leif Eriksson of Greenland’).
The Maya lived very much similarly.
The ‘Maya civilization’ wasn’t a central kingdom or empire as were the Aztecs. Much like a Norse settlement or village, a Maya city or village was a self ruling city-state under the control of a local chieftain or king they called an ‘Ajaw’.
A Maya ‘Ajaw’, much like an Old Norse ‘Jarl’, variously meant “lord”, “ruler”, “king” or “leader” and varied in size as to how much they ruled. It was a title generically denoted to the local leader and/or any of the leading class of nobles in a particular polity or neighboring city-state.
- Kane, Njord. The Vikings : The Story of a People. 2nd ed. Yukon: Spangenhelm, 2015. ISBN 978-1943066018.
- Kane, Njord. The Maya : The Story of a People. 2nd ed. Yukon: Spangenhelm, 2016. ISBN 978-1943066056.
- Caroline Arcini. The Vikings bare their filed teeth (pages 727–733). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Volume 128, Issue 4 December 2005.
- Stefan Lovgren. “Vikings Filed Their Teeth, Skeleton Study Shows”. National Geographic News, February 3, 2006.
- John Roach. “Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of Ancient Dentist”. National Geographic News, May 18, 2009.
- Saúl Dufoo Olvera, Leonor Ochoa García, Javier de la Fuente Hernández, Ricardo Ortiz Sánchez, Claudia de León Torres, and José Concepción Jiménez López. “Decorados dentales prehispánicos (Prehispanic dental decorates)”. Facultad de Odontología (Faculty of Dentistry). Vol. 14, No. 2 June 2010. pp 99-106.
- Société d’études linguistiques et anthropologiques de France, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France). Amérindia, Volumes 28-31. Equipe de recherche associée 431. SELAF, 2003.
by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing
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