The heads were sculpted out of a hard, dense rock called basalt. All later cultures, such as the Veracruz, Maya, Toltec, and Aztecs all borrowed from the Olmec. This is seen in their public works: the colossal heads are a good example. Archaeologists suggest a laborious process of slowly moving the stones, using a  combination of raw manpower, sledges and, when possible, rafts on rivers. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Museo Comunitario de San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, "Behold the new de Young. Casellas Cañellas 2004, p. 176. #1 Olmec culture was unknown to historians until the mid-19th century. A short strap descends from either side of the head to the ear. [179], In November 2017, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto donated a full-size replica of San Lorenzo Head 8 to the people of Belize. Buried in many locations throughout Olmec territory, about seventeen of them have currently been unearthed. However, this theory has been refuted now. We may also earn commissions on purchases from other retail websites. All portray mature individuals with fleshy cheeks, flat noses, and slightly crossed eyes; their physical characteristics correspond to a type that is still common among the inhabitants of Tabasco and Veracruz. [65] Head 3 has been moved to the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa. [108] The headdress is formed of 92 circular beads that completely cover the upper part of the head and descend across the sides and back. The Olmec heads are one of those archaeological artifacts that mainstream archaeology tries to avoid at all costs. A largely destroyed human figure rides upon each block, with their legs hanging over the side. [56] The monument was found lying on its back, facing the sky, and was excavated in 1946 by Stirling and Philip Drucker. Olmec colossal heads are one of the most remarkable icons of the ancient Olmec civilization. In addition to the gigantic heads, the Olmecs have left other pieces of great artistic value, such as thrones, altars and human figures and no other culture in Mesoamerica attained perfection and the level of mastery of the Olmecs when it comes to sculpting. [25] Most were formed from coarse grained dark grey basalt known as Cerro Cintepec basalt after a volcano in the range. The face is that of an ageing male with the forehead creased in a frown, wrinkles under the eyes, sagging cheeks and deep creases on either side of the nose.

Most of them are in regional museums close to where they were found, while two are in Mexico City.

[87] San Lorenzo Colossal Head 7 was reworked from a monumental throne;[34] it was discovered by a joint archaeological project by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and Yale University, as a result of a magnetometer survey. [44] Two of the San Lorenzo heads had been re-carved from older thrones. The most talked about objects are without a doubt, the famous Olmec Heads weighing between 20 to 40 tons and reaching up to three meters in height. The forehead is gathered in a frown. [133] These heads are sculpted with relatively simple headdresses; they have squat, wide proportions and distinctive facial features.

For example, it is not known if the Olmec had books, like the Maya and Aztecs. The workforce would have included sculptors, labourers, overseers, boatmen, woodworkers and other artisans producing the tools to make and move the monument, in addition to the support needed to feed and otherwise attend to these workers. The Olmec had to get these massive boulders weighing many tons from the quarry to the workshops in the city. Its exact date of discovery is unknown but is estimated to have been some time in the 1940s, when it was struck by machinery being used to clear vegetation from Nestape hill. The backs of the monuments often are flat.

[126] The ears have been completely eroded away and the lips are damaged. [180], Stone representations of human heads from the Olmec civilization, San Lorenzo Colossal Head 6 in the Museo Nacional de Antropología, San Lorenzo Colossal Head 7 in the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, San Lorenzo Colossal Head 8 in the Museo de Antropología in Xalapa, San Lorenzo Colossal Head 10 in the Museo Comunitario de San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Taube summarizes recent contributions to the debate at pp. The Olmec may have practiced human sacrifice: some human bones located at suspected sacred sites seem to confirm this. Their beauty is such that several replicas have been made and can be seen around the world. As a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, this site may earn from qualifying purchases. [27] Roughly spherical boulders were carefully selected to mimic the shape of a human head. Although researchers can’t say exactly who are the people depicted in these monuments, significant support exists for the theory that the faces in these colossal heads represent powerful Olmec rulers. Nevertheless, the most striking examples of Olmec art are the colossal heads. It was found lying on its side to the south of a monumental throne. These evocative stone face masks present both similarities and differences to the colossal heads. The seasonal and agricultural cycles and river levels needed to have been taken into account to plan the production of the monument and the whole project may well have taken years from beginning to end. It has sagging cheeks and wide eyes. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 2 February 2010. [80] The band of the headdress is set at an angle and has a notch above the bridge of the nose. The oldest Olmec colossal heads have been recovered from the site of San Lorenzo, which was the first major center of the Olmec civilization. San Lorenzo had no peers or rivals: it was the largest and most magnificent city in Mesoamerica at the time and it exerted great influence in the region. A small skullcap tops the headdress. López, 13 January 2009.

[15] All of the Olmec colossal heads depict mature men with flat noses and fleshy cheeks; the eyes tend to be slightly crossed. [89] The headdress is decorated with a pair of human hands;[88] a feathered ornament is carved at the back of the headband and two discs adorn the front.

[92], San Lorenzo Colossal Head 8 (also known as San Lorenzo Monument 61) stands 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) high;[93] it measures 1.65 metres (5.4 ft) wide by 1.6 metres (5.2 ft) deep and weighs 13 tons. The Olmecs were extremely talented artists and sculptors: they produced many statues, masks, figurines, stelae, thrones and more. This process was so difficult that there are several examples of pieces being carved from earlier works; two of the San Lorenzo heads were carved out of an earlier throne. [161][162] The vandals were all members of an evangelical church and appeared to have been carrying out a supposed pre-Columbian ritual, during which salts, grape juice, and oil were thrown on the heads. Aw, this was a really nice post. [32] The regional terrain offers significant obstacles such as swamps and floodplains; avoiding these would have necessitated crossing undulating hill country. When excavated, it was found to be lying on its right-hand side and in a very good state of preservation. The backs of the heads are often flat, as if the monuments were originally placed against a wall. The Olmec heads occur at a number of Olmec sites and possibly one site outside the historically Olmec regions. However, it was impossible to transport heavier rocks using this method and Olmec probably made use of makeshift roads to move them across land routes. The Olmec heads are one of those archaeological artifacts that mainstream archaeology tries to avoid at all costs. Olmec civilization was the first to practice ritual bloodletting in Mesoamerica. How many people would have been used in the past to transport a rock that had a weight of over 40 tons? [138], Several colossal heads have been loaned to temporary exhibitions abroad; San Lorenzo Colossal Head 6 was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1970. Much like the rest of the Olmec art, the depictions of the faces in these colossal heads are realistic and life-like. [139] At some point it was moved to the plaza of the modern village, probably in the early 1960s. The face is that of an ageing man with a creased forehead, low cheekbones and a prominent chin. 4, 154–157. Perhaps the most notable features of the sculptures – and a clue as to their meaning – are the helmets worn by all the Olmec heads. They were talented traders and artists, and their influence is quite clearly seen in later cultures like the Aztec and the Maya. Pool 2007, p. 7. One of the most extraordinary forms of Olmec art that has reached us are the colossal heads.

Mainstream researchers have proposed several theories that are open for debate. [151] Countering this, James Porter has claimed that the re-carving of the face of a colossal head into a niche figure is clearly evident. [111] The other head was found in Complex B to the south of the Great Pyramid, in a plaza that included a number of other sculptures. Earth structures such as mounds, platforms and causeways upon the plateau demonstrate that the Olmec possessed the necessary knowledge and could commit the resources to build large-scale earthworks. [62], San Lorenzo Colossal Head 3 is also known as San Lorenzo Monument 3. [25] It was discovered in a mountain pass in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas, on the north side of El Vigia volcano near to Santiago Tuxtla. [122] The head has been moved to the Museo del Estado de Tabasco in Villahermosa. The monument was discovered partially buried at the edge of a gully by Matthew Stirling in 1945. The head had collapsed into a ravine under its own weight and was found face down on its left hand side.

The Olmec civilization, which thrived along Mexico's Gulf Coast from about 1200 to 400 B.C., was the first major Mesoamerican culture. [98] The headdress is decorated with the talons or claws of either a jaguar or an eagle. [2] A massive stone head, possibly a portrait of the ruler who ordered the work. The spools have the form of a rounded square with a circular sunken central portion. I wonder how much effort you put to create such a fantastic informative website. [45], San Lorenzo Colossal Head 1 (also known as San Lorenzo Monument 1)[46] was lying facing upwards when excavated. These sculptures have been found at a handful of archaeological sites, including La Venta and San Lorenzo.