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College

Liberal Arts

Abstract

Research investigates ancient Mayan sociopolitical practices regarding individuals with congenital physical anomalies, including dwarfism, acromegaly, clubfoot, and polydactyly. Research endeavors to determine if social marginalization of individuals with such traits is a human universal and to explore the potential existence of more amicable alternative paradigms. Analysis of pathology, as identified via clinical diagnostic criterion from modern medical literature, determined that the pre-Columbian Maya represent a model by which social mobility was facilitated, or at the very least not hindered, by physical variation: elites appear to have acquired and maintained status by means of their atypical physical traits. Subsequent cross-cultural ethnohistoric comparison of this paradigm with modern cultures may yield interesting anecdotal implications for contemporary social issues regarding the perceived marginilizatinon of individuals with similar afflictions. As evidenced by the Maya, an effective method of normalizing human variation may be through incorporation of the aformentioned traits into the existing cognitive framework of society’s collective conscience.

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