Secrets of the Ancient Olmecs
The ancient Olmecs in Mexico sculpted massive stone heads 3000 years ago, before even the Roman Empire was established. Thought to be carved in the likeness of their leaders, these heads weighed over 3 (up to 40) tonnes and came from a mountain over 160km away, a trek that would have taken them across rivers and swamps. How did they manage the task of transporting these huge blocks of rock? Without metal tools, how did they carve these dense stones?
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Considered the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica, the Olmec developed an iconic and sophisticated artistic style as early as the second millennium B.C. This pre-Columbian civilization, which flourished in the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco between 1400 and 400 B.C., is best known for the creation of colossal stone portrait heads of its rulers. Some weighing up to 24 tons, the monumental heads are among ancient America’s most striking and beautiful masterpieces.
In the fifteen years since the last major study of the Olmec, archaeologists have made significant finds at key sites in Mexico. This sweeping project brings together the most recent scholarship, along with a diverse selection of more than 100 monuments, sculptures, adornments, masks, and vessels, many of which have never traveled beyond Mexico’s borders, that paint a rich portrait of life in the most important Olmec centers, including San Lorenzo, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes. Particular attention is paid to the emergence of the culture, distinctive variations in the art of different city sites, and the chronology and reach of the society during its apex.
Centering on the concept of discovery, this wide-ranging volume presents a fresh look at Olmec civilization, recapturing the excitement that greeted the unearthing of the first colossal stone head in 1862.