Lecture 2. The Olmec: Narratives in Earth and Stone (1700 – 400 BC)

created by:

Carolyn Tate

from the module:

Shaping Place in Mesoamerica

By 1700 BC, people in several regions of Mesoamerica were conducting major earth-shaping projects. By 1200, they were creating ceremonial and administrative centers, and carving basalt and jade into a variety of meaningful forms. This lecture looks at three such places: El Manatí, San Lorenzo and La Venta along the Gulf Coast. All existed hundreds of years before the advent of phonetic writing in Mesoamerica. However, the people of this era did develop a trans-regional system for communicating ideas about human origins, about leadership, and about the cyclical nature of life and of time. Around 500 BC, people used these symbols to create a processional visual narrative. Units of Lecture 2 1. Introduction: Geography, Chronology, Discovery in the 20th century 2. El Manatí – Ritual deposits (caches) in a spring (1700 – 1200 BC). Jade celts, rubber balls, wooden busts. 3. San Lorenzo – the earliest urban center; developed dozens of new subjects for monumental sculpture (1250 – 850 BC). The plateau as a major earth-moving project. Sculptural subjects include cave-womb thrones, colossal heads, animals, supernaturals, humans. 4. La Venta – the earliest large earth mound; where sculptural narratives helped define beliefs about human origins and life’s cycles; magnificent cached offerings; alignment with mountains; axis or orientation, possible measurement unit (1000 – 400 BC)

supporting documents:



Quiz with Answers