Evidence of Olmec expansion as far as Guatemala

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Recent analysis made to the 4th Offering of La Venta have allowed investigators to discover evidence suggesting that the ancient Olmec civilization, that flourished in the Gulf of Mexico, reached a territorial and commercial expansion much bigger than what had been originally thought, since it’s believed they were in contact with Guatemala, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

Evidence of Olmec expansion as far as Guatemala
The 4th Offering of La Venta was found in 1955
[Credit: INAH]

The offering, found in 1955, is made up of 16 figurines carved in different green stones representing masculine individuals and a row of six slim axes that frame the scene.

It’s the first time they have found physical evidence of the territorial expansion in an offering. “We found jade originating from the basin of the Motagua River in Guatemala, and serpentine (minerals) of Guerrero and Oaxaca. This makes us suppose that the artifacts represent a sumptuary good that originates from places distant to those known to have alliances with the Olmec site of La Venta.”

The analysis made on the artifacts was compiled in the book: “The 4th Offering of La Venta, a treasure reunited in the Museum of National Anthropology. Studies and a reasoned catalogue, coordinated by Diana Magaloni and Laura Filloy.

Evidence of Olmec expansion as far as Guatemala
The 4th Offering of La Venta is composed of 16 different figurines carved in
in different green stones [Credit: INAH]

The offering was located in the North Platform of the La Venta site in 1955, by Eduardo Contreras of INAH. At the site they found 16 figurines carved in green stones that represent masculine individuals and six slim axes that symbolize a political and religious act.

The offering was carefully buried under diverse layers of multiple colored clay, possibly making a reference to different levels of the cosmos.

Creatures of the Underworld

The pieces represent beings that inhabited a space of death, the underworld. Diana Magaloni added that even though they have a human face, they are creatures in transformation, “they mouths are becoming jaws similar to those of a jaguar, this implies that the face may be similar to the maize god or an ancient jaguar”.

Evidence of Olmec expansion as far as Guatemala
The figures represent beings that inhabited
the underworld [Credit: INAH]

All the pieces have wide eyes, carved without pupils and hollow, very distinct to the colossal heads that are represented without cranium deformities and with pupils. “Both representations are those of human beings, but while the Olmec heads can be human beings, the figurines of La Venta inhabit the underworlds, and may be worshiped ancestors but they are not alive.

The studies allow the possibility that although La Venta was dominant in the region, those represented did not belong in this place, this theory was noted by the physical anthropologist Josefina Bautista, who established that they belonged to three different ethnic groups by their cranium deformities.

Source: INAH via ArtDaily [January 27, 2014]

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