ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Giant Heads of Mexico

Updated on January 15, 2017
Monument 4 from La Venta with comparative size of an adult and child. The monument weighs almost 20 tons.
Monument 4 from La Venta with comparative size of an adult and child. The monument weighs almost 20 tons. | 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. It's also important to notice that they still didn't use metals so their instruments were all stone-made.

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. Another theory about the helmeted heads is that they reflect an aggressive, full contact sport. Evidence suggests that these heads were plastered and painted in bright colours.

It is known that 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.

One big question today, is if they can prove an African Presence in Pre-Columbian America because of their Negroid features.

A
Lá Venta:
La Venta, Tab., México

get directions

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

Some Colossal Heads

Click thumbnail to view full-size
La Venta Monument 1Olmec head labeled as number 1 in the Xalapa's museum of Antropology, also known as el rey (the king) Olmec Colossal Head 3 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz, Mexico.Monument Q from Tres Zapotes (also known as Nestepe Monument 1, the Nestepe Colossal Head and Tres Zapotes Colossal Head 2). This is the smallest of the Olmec colossal heads.Colossal Head 4 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz, Mexico. The head is on permanent display at the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa in Veracruz, MexicoSan Lorenzo Colossal Head 2, from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz. In the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City.San Lorenzo Monumental Head 6. Monumental head from the Olmec civilization exhibited at the Museo Nacinal de Antropología e Historia, MexicoSan Lorenzo Colossal Head 8 (also known as Monument 61), in the Museo de Antropología in XalapaThe La Cobata head, in the main plaza of Santiago Tuxtla. The colossal head was discovered in 1970 and was the fifteenth to be recorded.
La Venta Monument 1
La Venta Monument 1 | Source
Olmec head labeled as number 1 in the Xalapa's museum of Antropology, also known as el rey (the king)
Olmec head labeled as number 1 in the Xalapa's museum of Antropology, also known as el rey (the king) | Source
Olmec Colossal Head 3 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz, Mexico.
Olmec Colossal Head 3 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz, Mexico. | Source
Monument Q from Tres Zapotes (also known as Nestepe Monument 1, the Nestepe Colossal Head and Tres Zapotes Colossal Head 2). This is the smallest of the Olmec colossal heads.
Monument Q from Tres Zapotes (also known as Nestepe Monument 1, the Nestepe Colossal Head and Tres Zapotes Colossal Head 2). This is the smallest of the Olmec colossal heads. | Source
Colossal Head 4 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz, Mexico. The head is on permanent display at the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa in Veracruz, Mexico
Colossal Head 4 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz, Mexico. The head is on permanent display at the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa in Veracruz, Mexico | Source
San Lorenzo Colossal Head 2, from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz. In the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City.
San Lorenzo Colossal Head 2, from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, Veracruz. In the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City. | Source
San Lorenzo Monumental Head 6. Monumental head from the Olmec civilization exhibited at the Museo Nacinal de Antropología e Historia, Mexico
San Lorenzo Monumental Head 6. Monumental head from the Olmec civilization exhibited at the Museo Nacinal de Antropología e Historia, Mexico | Source
San Lorenzo Colossal Head 8 (also known as Monument 61), in the Museo de Antropología in Xalapa
San Lorenzo Colossal Head 8 (also known as Monument 61), in the Museo de Antropología in Xalapa | Source
The La Cobata head, in the main plaza of Santiago Tuxtla. The colossal head was discovered in 1970 and was the fifteenth to be recorded.
The La Cobata head, in the main plaza of Santiago Tuxtla. The colossal head was discovered in 1970 and was the fifteenth to be recorded. | Source

Monument distribution

Site
No. of monuments
San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan
10
La Venta
4
Tres Zapotes
2
La Cobata
1
Takalik Abaj
1 (possible)
Seventeen confirmed examples are known. An additional monument, at Takalik Abaj in Guatemala, is a throne that may have been carved from a colossal head.

Characteristics

San Lorenzo

The ten colossal heads from San Lorenzo originally formed two roughly parallel lines running north-south across the site.These heads, together with a number of monumental stone thrones, probably formed a processional route across the site, powerfully displaying its dynastic history. Two of the San Lorenzo heads had been re-carved from older thrones

La Venta

Three of the La Venta heads were found in a line running east-west in the northern Complex I; all three faced northwards, away from the city centre. 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.[

Tres Zapotes

The two heads at Tres Zapotes, with the La Cobata head, are stylistically distinct from the other known examples. These heads are sculpted with relatively simple headdresses; they have squat, wide proportions and distinctive facial features.

La Cobata

The La Cobata region was the source of the basalt used for carving all of the colossal heads in the Olmec heartland.The La Cobata head is more or less rounded and measures 3 by 3 metres (9.8 by 9.8 ft) by 3.4 metres (11 ft) high, making it the largest known head. Large parts of the monument seem to be roughed out without finished detail.


Takalik Abaj

Takalik Abaj Monument 23 dates to the Middle Preclassic period and appears to be an Olmec-style colossal head re-carved into a niche figure sculpture. If originally a colossal head then it would be the only known example from outside the Olmec heartland.


Olmec civilization

It's difficult for us to understand how people living over three thousand years ago, could transport 40 tonnes of stone for 160 Km. Today, Experimental Archeology can explain how this was possible.

The Olmecs were the first complex society in Mesoamerica and only a very well organized people could produce and transport such monuments. We know very little about this society that disappeared, mysteriously, between 400 and 350 BC.

Watch the video to know more about this Mesoamerican civilization and it's secrets.


List of replicas and their locations within the United States:

  • Austin, Texas. In the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas.
  • Chicago, Illinois. Placed in the Field Museum of Natural History
  • Covina, California. Located in Jobe's Glen, Jalapa Park.
  • McAllen, Texas. A replica is located in the International Museum of Art & Science.
  • New York. Placed next to the main plaza in the grounds of Lehman College in the Bronx, New York.
  • San Francisco, California. Placed in San Francisco City College, Ocean Campus.
  • Washington, D.C. Placed near the Constitution Avenue entrance of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • West Valley City, Utah. Placed in the Utah Cultural Celebration Center


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)