A study shows that the Mayans captured different facial expressions in their sculptures

A study shows that the Mayans captured different facial expressions in their sculptures


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The article published in the journal Science Advances offers evidence on the universality of the ways of expressing pain, anger, determination or tension, euphoria and sadness.

Alan Cowen and Dacher Keltner, American researchers, published in the journal Science Advances the results of a study that led them to determine that the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica managed to artistically represent facial expressions that are still valid to this day.

Using seven museum databases, the authors analyzedthousands of statuettes and sculptures made by the Mayan and Olmec civilizations in Mexico and Central America, dating back 2,500 years.

From that universe they selected 63 figures, which portray subjects withinidentifiable contexts and they areperceptible and explicit representations on faces. Thus, for example, there were among them figurations of torture, the practice of a sport, the care of a baby, the load of a heavy object or the scene of a hug.

Portraits with their respective facial expressions

The faces captured by the Mayans and Olmecsthey portrayed amazement, pain, joy, sadness, anger, tension, and determination.

The researchers then asked 365 Western men and women, with an average age of 35, what feelings they transmitted to them. the faces of the figures and, to avoid any bias, they hid everything that could describe the scene they represented.

At the same time, they did a second experiment with another 114 participants, who were asked to label feelings or emotional states based on the situations represented in the sculptures, now without showing their faces.

The results showed many similarities in terms of the feelings associated with each of the two groups of participants.

Universality of expressions

"We do not have direct knowledge about the feelings of the people of ancient America," the researchers noted.

However, they added, the resultsverified the universality of at least five types of facial expressions: those associated with pain, anger, determination or tension, euphoria and sadness.

"These findings support the notion that we are biologically prepared to express certain emotional states with particular behaviors," concluded Cowen and Keltner.

Via RT and Science Magazine.


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