The Olmecs worked mainly in stone and particularly favored jade, or greenstone, which they believed had distinctive properties linked with fertility and procreation.
What kind of statues did the Olmecs make?
The Olmec especially valued the bluish color of this jadeite mask. Jadeite, a rare variety of greenstone, occurs naturally in very few places around the world. The material for this mask likely originated from the Motagua River valley in present-day Guatemala, the only known source of jadeite in ancient Mesoamerica.
Olmec means ‘ people from the rubber country ‘This Olmec mask was worn around the neck as a pendant. It may have provided the wearer with a new identity as an ancestor or deity – perhaps as the Olmec rain god. The distinctive toothless, down-turned mouth and infant-like face are typical of Olmec art.
The Olmec culture was defined and unified by a specific art style. Crafted in a variety of materials— jade, clay, basalt, and greenstone, which is an archaeologist’s term for carved, green-colored minerals—much Olmec art is naturalistic.
The Olmec were gifted artists who produced stone carvings, woodcarvings and cave paintings. They made carvings of all sizes, from tiny celts and figurines to massive stone heads. The stonework is made of many different types of stone, including basalt and jadeite.
The object is carved from serpentine, a dark green stone, commonly used in Olmec artwork. Due to its small size (13cm x 11.3cm x 5.7cm), the object was most likely worn as a pendant rather than a mask. The face is probably a depiction of an Olmec king.
The Olmec art style is found on objects as far afield as the Valley of Mexico to the north and the Pacific coast of Chiapas to the south.
The men wore breech-cloth, back apron and a belt. The women wore knee length skirts. The priests wore their slaves skin when sacrificed.
The Olmec created massive monuments, including colossal stone heads, thrones, stela (upright slabs), and statues. They may have been the originators of the Mesoamerican ball game, a ceremonial team sport played throughout the region for centuries.
We, and most other scholars who have studied Olmec art, would further agree that the particular “god” associated with rain is a were-jaguar, that is, a mask dominated by the characteristically feline mouth with downturned corners beneath a pug nose.
The Olmecs (1200-400 B. C. E.) first used warfare to expand trade and access to resources. Fighters from the Olmec city of San Lorenzo utilized obsidian-edged weapons, handto- hand elite combat, and small, elite forces numbering in the tens to hundreds to control local trade routes from the Veracruz region.
Items buried in offerings included ceramic vessels, stone sculptures, obsidian blades, seashells, greenstone, and objects gathered from earlier locales (like Olmec sites and the city of Teotihuacan).
The Olmecs produced an abundance of basalt sculpture. Basalt blocks were quarried, then transported from distant sites. The colossal head monuments have managed to survive thousands of years, however have been faced with various circumstances that have caused damage.
Contributions. The Olmecs were apparently the first Mesoamerican people to fathom the concept of zero, develop a calendar, and create a hieroglyphic writing system. Also, they are credited for the discovery of the first conduit drainage system known in the Americas.
In Central America, the Mesoamerican groups, namely the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs prized jadeite jade. They used it for medicinal purposes as well as for jewelry, ornaments, and religious artifacts.
The heads were each carved from a single basalt boulder which in some cases were transported 100 km or more to their final destination, presumably using huge balsa river rafts wherever possible and log rollers on land.