Olmec colossal basalt head in the Museo de la Venta, an outdoor museum near Villahermosa

Our discussion this week will focus on Olmec sculpture, particularly the styles, of both monumental and small scale examples.

Our discussion this week will focus on Olmec sculpture, particularly the styles, of both monumental and small scale examples. As you have been reading this week, Olmec civilization is the oldest in Meso-america and served as the foundation of almost all later civilizations in this area. Understanding the iconography, function and style of Olmec sculpture is thus an important foundation for our upcoming discussions on later Meso-american art. For this discussion, please complete the following tasks:

1) select an example of Olmec sculpture from the assigned readings such as the colossal heads and stelae of La Venta, Tres Zapotes and San Lorenzo or a small portable example of sculpture and identify the location it was discovered (if known), approximate date and material (Jade, basalt, clay etc).

2) Describe the subject matter and iconography (what is represented i.e. were-jaguar or a ruler etc.) and how the subject matter relates to the function of the sculpture. For example, would the sculpture have been used for religious or ritual purposes or for political purposes in maintaining the political hierarchy? Please remember when discussing function there is not a definitive answer as no written records exist from Olmec civilization and we must rely on accompanying archaeological evidence to come to any conclusions regarding function. For example, the Colossal Heads were located in ritual centers where the foundation of pyramids and and temples have been located.

3) Finally, describe the style of the sculpture. Is it naturalistic or abstract? Again, how does the style relate to the possible function of the sculpture?

Answer preview our discussion this week will focus on Olmec sculpture, particularly the styles, of both monumental and small scale examples.

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