The Colossal Heads of Mexico

Map of the Olmec heartland

A map of the Olmec heartland. The yellow sites are known villages and towns. The smaller red dots mark locations where artifacts or art have been found unassociated with habitation.
A map of the Olmec heartland. The yellow sites are known villages and towns. The smaller red dots mark locations where artifacts or art have been found unassociated with habitation. | Source

Scattered by various regions of Mexico, there are 17 giant heads that we know very little about, apart from having been made by the Olmec, a people who lived between 1500 and 400 BC in that region. They are the oldest known monuments in Prehispanic Mexico.

These giant sculptures were carved from single blocks and massive basalt. The basalt used to make most of the monuments came from the area of the Tuxtlas mountains. A large unfinished altar that was discovered in those mountains showed that the sculptures were given their first shapes at the quarry site, and then transported to the places where they were finished.

It is not known exactly how this transportation was done, but some must have been transported by the river and swept away by large distances. This only could be made by a people with a strong government since it is estimated that to drag each one it was needed about 1500 people.

The heads have common characteristics as flat nose, thick lips and flat faces. For some, these characteristics lead to think of the physiognomy of the African people which proved the African origin of the Olmecs, but there are also some characteristics of Asian people. Scholars of pre-Columbian culture deny, however, their African origin.

Other aspect of the heads is the fact that all have what appears to be a helmet and there are some of them that were carved more than once. It is thought today that they represent chiefs, but it's not known why at least two, have been cut more than once. It may have been due to rituals or lack of stone, which would oblige to change the faces when a chief was replaced.

Colossal Heads

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Carrying the stones - Stonehenge example

How did they manage to carry the sculptures?

It's difficult for us to understand how a people that lived 500 before Rome was founded, could transport 40 tonnes of stone for 160 Km.

Experimental Archeology can explain it today as it has already done about Stonehenge megaliths. Watch the video to understand how was it possible.


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