Scholars calculate that the largest heads weigh between 25 and 55 tonnes 28 and 61 short tons.
It has been calculated that the largest heads weigh between 25 and 55 short tons 50 t. The heads were carved from single blocks or boulders of volcanic basalt, found in the Tuxtlas Mountains.
The Tres Zapotes heads, for example, were sculpted from basalt found at the summit of Cerro el Vigia, at the western end of the Tuxtlas. The San Lorenzo and La Venta heads, on the other hand, were likely carved from the basalt of Cerro Cintepec, on the southeastern side, perhaps at the nearby Llano del Jicaro workshop, and dragged or floated to their final destination dozens of miles away.
It has been estimated that moving a colossal head required the efforts of 1, people for three to four months. It is known that some monuments, and at least two heads, were recycled or recarved, but it is not known whether this was simply due to the scarcity of stone or whether these actions had ritual or other connotations.
It is also suspected that some mutilation had significance beyond mere destruction, but some scholars still do not rule out internal conflicts or, less likely, invasion as a factor. Almost all of these colossal heads bear the same features, flattened nose, wide lips, and capping headpiece, possible features of the Olmec warrior-kings.
These characteristics have caused some debate due to their apparent resemblance to African facial characteristics. Based on this comparison, some have insisted that the Olmecs were Africans who had emigrated to the New World.
However, claims of pre-Columbian contacts with Africa are rejected by the vast majority of archeologists and other Mesoamerican scholars. Explanations for the facial features of the colossal heads include the possibility that the heads were carved in this manner due to the shallow space allowed on the basalt boulders.
Others note that in addition to the broad noses and thick lips, the heads have the Asian eye-fold, and that all these characteristics can still be found in modern Mesoamerican Indians.
In addition, the African origin hypothesis assumes that Olmec carving was intended to be realistic, an assumption that is hard to justify given the full corpus of representation in Olmec carving. This head dates from to BCE and is 2. Monuments were also an important characteristic of Olmec centers.
Today they provide us with some idea of the nature of Olmec ideology. The colossal heads are commanding portraits of individual Olmec rulers, and the large symbol displayed on the 'helmet' of each colossal head appears to be an identification motif for that person.
Colossal heads glorified the rulers while they were alive, and commemorated them as revered ancestors after their death.
The inert were-jaguar baby held by the central figure is seen by some as an indication of child sacrifice. In contrast, its sides show bas-reliefs of humans holding quite lively were-jaguar babies.
Altars were actually the thrones of Olmec rulers. The carving on the front of the throne shows the identified ruler sitting in a niche that symbolizes a cave entrance to the supernatural powers of the underworld.
That scene communicated to the people their ruler's association with cosmological power Notable Innovations In addition to their influence with contemporaneous Mesoamerican cultures, as the first civilization in Mesoamerica, the Olmecs are credited, or speculatively credited, with many "firsts", including the bloodletting and perhaps human sacrifice, writing and epigraphy, and the invention of zero and the Mesoamerican calendar, and the Mesoamerican ballgame, as well as perhaps the compass.
Some researchers, including artist and art historian Miguel Covarrubias, even postulate that the Olmecs formulated the forerunners of many of the later Mesoamerican deities. Bloodletting and Sacrifice Although there is no explicit representation of Olmec bloodletting in the archaeological record, there is nonetheless a strong case that the Olmecs ritually practiced it.
Numerous natural and ceramic stingray spikes and maguey thorns, for example, have been found at Olmec sites, and certain artifacts have been identified as bloodletters. The argument that the Olmecs instituted human sacrifice is significantly more speculative.
No Olmec or Olmec-influenced sacrificial artifacts have yet been discovered and there is no Olmec or Olmec-influenced artwork that unambiguously shows sacrificial victims similar, for example, to the danzante figures of Monte Alban or scenes of human sacrifice such as can be seen in the famous ballcourt mural from El Tajin.
However, at the El Manati site, disarticulated skulls and femurs as well as complete skeletons of newborn or unborn children have been discovered amidst the other offerings, leading to speculation concerning infant sacrifice. It is not yet known, though, how the infants met their deaths.
Some authors have also associated infant sacrifice with Olmec ritual art showing limp were-jaguar babies, most famously in La Venta's Altar 5 to the left or Las Limas figure. Any definitive answer will need to await further findings.
Religion and Mythology Monument 19, from La Venta, the earliest known representation of a feathered serpent in Mesoamerica.
It was formerly thought that the Olmec worshiped only one god, a rain deity depicted as a 'were-jaguar', but study has shown that there were at least 10 distinct gods represented in Olmec art.
Olmec religious activities were performed by a combination of rulers, full-time priests, and shamans. The rulers seem to have been the most important religious figures, with their links to the Olmec deities or supernaturals providing legitimacy for their rule.
There is also considerable evidence for shamans in the Olmec archaeological record, particularly in the so-called "transformation figures".Olmec Civilization.
The first signs of complex society in Mesoamerica were the Olmecs an ancient Pre-Columbian civilization living in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in what are roughly the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. Beginning in the 12th century, the invasion of the nomadic Chichimec destroyed the Toltec hegemony in central Mexico.
Among the invaders were the Aztecs, Tylor’s study. View More. External Websites. Ancient History Encyclopedia - Toltec Civilization; Britannica Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high. Toltec: Toltec, Nahuatl-speaking tribe who held sway over what is now central Mexico from the 10th to the 12th century ce.
The name has many meanings: an “urbanite,” a “cultured” person, and, literally, the “reed person,” derived from their urban centre, Tollan (“Place of the Reeds”), near the modern town. Th e purpose of this publication is to present previously unrecognized aspects of pre-Columbian art and iconography that shines a new light on a central riddle of New World history: how it was possible in for a small band of Spanish conquistadors under the command of Hernán Cortés to conquer the vast and powerful Aztec empire.
Pyramid B of Tollan in central Mexico, the capital of the Toltec civilization (th century CE).
Olmec Civilization. The first signs of complex society in Mesoamerica were the Olmecs an ancient Pre-Columbian civilization living in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in what are roughly the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. Overview of Mexico's Ancient Civilizations. By Suzanne Barbezat. Updated 06/25/ Share Pin Email 01 of (around AD), the Toltecs gained dominance of Central Mexico. Their capital city was Tula, north of Mexico City in Hidalgo state. This resulted in a split which eventually led to the fall of the Toltec civilization. Continue. For at least two millennia before the advent of the Spaniards in , there was a flourishing civilization in central Mexico. During that long span of time a cultural evolution took place which saw a high development of the arts and literature, the formulation of complex religious doctrines, systems of education, and diverse political and social organization.
The five-tiered pyramid. Overview of Mexico's Ancient Civilizations. By Suzanne Barbezat. Updated 06/25/ Share Pin Email 01 of (around AD), the Toltecs gained dominance of Central Mexico.
Their capital city was Tula, north of Mexico City in Hidalgo state. This resulted in a split which eventually led to the fall of the Toltec civilization. Continue.