La Venta holds the remnants of the Olmec civilization, one of the many Ancient Civilizations that I visited during my travels.

From the La Venta entry in Wikipedia:

La Venta is a pre-Columbian archaeological site of the Olmec civilization located in the present-day Mexican state of Tabasco. Some of the artifacts have been moved to the museum "Parque - Museo de La Venta", which is in nearby Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco.

The Olmec were one of the first civilizations to develop in the Americas. Chronologically, the history of the Olmecs can be divided into the Early Formative (1800-900 BCE), Middle Formative (900-400 BCE) and Late Formative (400 BCE-200 CE). The Olmecs are known as the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica, meaning that the Olmec civilization was the first culture that spread and influenced Mesoamerica. The spread of Olmec culture eventually became the cultural features found throughout all Mesoamerican societies.

Rising from the sedentary agriculturalists of the Gulf Lowlands as early as 1600 BCE in the Early Formative period, the Olmecs held sway in the Olmec heartland, an area on the southern Gulf of México coastal plain, in Veracruz and Tabasco. Prior to the site of La Venta, the first Olmec site of San Lorenzo dominated the modern day state of Veracruz (1200-900 BCE).

Certainly the most famous of the La Venta monumental artifacts are the four colossal heads. Seventeen colossal heads have been unearthed in the Olmec area, four of them at La Venta, officially named Monuments 1 through 4.

Three of the heads - Monuments 2, 3, & 4 - were found roughly 150 m (490 ft) north of Complex A, which is itself just north of the Great Pyramid, Complex C-1. These heads were in a slightly irregular row, facing north. The other colossal head - Monument 1 - was found in Complex C, a few dozen meters south of the Great Pyramid C-1.

The La Venta heads are thought to have been carved by 700 BCE, but possibly as early as 850 BCE, while the San Lorenzo heads are credited to an earlier period. The colossal heads can measure up to 2.84 m (9.32 ft) in height and weigh several tons. The sheer size of the stones causes a great deal of speculation on how the Olmec were able to move them. The major basalt quarry for the colossal heads at La Venta was found at Cerro Cintepec in the Tuxtla Mountains, over 80 km (50 miles) away.

Each of the heads wears headgear reminiscent of 1920s-style American football helmets, although each is unique in its decoration. The consensus is that the heads likely represent mighty Olmec rulers.

There are a total of 17 colossal heads, four from La Venta, 10 from San Lorenzo, two from Tres Zapotes, and one from La Cobata

From the Olmec colossal heads in Wikipedia:

Olmec colossal heads vary in height from 1.47 - 3.4 m (4.82 - 11.2 ft) and weigh between 6 and 50 tons. All of the Olmec colossal heads depict mature men with flat noses and fleshy cheeks; the eyes tend to be slightly crossed. The general physical characteristics of the heads are of a type that is still common among people in the Olmec region in modern times. The backs of the heads are often flat, as if the monuments were originally placed against a wall. All examples of Olmec colossal heads wear distinctive headdresses that probably represent cloth or animal hide originals. Some examples have a tied knot at the back of the head, and some are decorated with feathers. A head from La Venta is decorated with the head of a bird. There are similarities between the headdresses on some of the heads that has led to speculation that specific headdresses may represent different dynasties, or perhaps identify specific rulers. Most of the heads wear large ear spools inserted into the ear lobes.

The colossal heads cannot be precisely dated. However, the San Lorenzo heads were buried by 900 BCE, indicating that their period of manufacture and use was earlier still. The heads from Tres Zapotes had been moved from their original context before they were investigated by archaeologists and the heads from La Venta were found partially exposed on the modern ground surface. The period of production of the colossal heads is therefore unknown, as is whether it spanned a century or a millennium. Estimates of the time span during which colossal heads were produced vary from 50 to 200 years. The San Lorenzo heads are believed to be the oldest, and are the most skillfully executed. All of the stone heads have been assigned to the Preclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology, generally to the Early Preclassic (1500-1000 BCE), although the two Tres Zapotes heads and the La Cobata Head are attributed to the Middle Preclassic (1000-400 BCE)

Site Map of La Venta
Site Map of La Venta (559k)

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

La Venta

Complex Three Colossal Heads
Complex I, where three of the colossal heads were found. (1.8M)
Structure C-1 Main Pyramid
Structure C-1, the main pyramid. (1305k)
Complex C Platform Main
Complex C platform with the main pyramid. (1.7M)
Complex C Platform Front
Complex C platform in front of the main pyramid. (1.7M)
Complex C Platform Front
Complex C platform in front of the main pyramid. (2M)
Colossal Head Stele Complex
Colossal head and stele in Complex C. (1.8M)
View Main Pyramid Towards
View from the main pyramid towards Complex I with the three colossal heads. (1.6M)
View Main Pyramid Over
View from the main pyramid over the platform of Complex C. (1.6M)
Stele 1 Young Goddess
Stele 1 (Young Goddess). (1.5M)
Stele 2 Stele King
Stele 2 (Stele of the King), showing a dignitary with a staff, surrounded by six other figures, also carrying staffs, representing power. (1.6M)
Oblique View Stele 2
Oblique view of Stele 2. (1389k)
Central Figure Stele 2
Central figure on Stele 2. (1415k)
Stele 3 Bearded Man
Stele 3 (the Bearded Man), showing two central figures facing each other. (1373k)
Top Stele 3 Showing
Top of Stele 3, showing figures floating above the central figures. (1340k)
Two Central Figures Stele
The two central figures on Stele 3. (1188k)
Detail Right Figure Stele
Detail of the right figure on Stele 3. (1320k)
Carved Stele
Carved stele. (981k)
Altar 1 Feline Altar
Altar 1 (Feline Altar). (1288k)
Altar 1 Feline Altar
Altar 1 (Feline Altar). (1.6M)
Altar 3 Altar Dialog
Altar 3 (Altar of the Dialog). (1.6M)
Closer View Central Figure
Closer view of the central figure on Altar 3. (1385k)
Carving Side Altar 3
Carving on the side of Altar 3, two figures facing each other, sitting on a mat. (1.6M)
Altar 4 Triumphal Altar
Altar 4 (Triumphal Altar). (1448k)
Side View Altar 4
Side view of Altar 4 (Triumphal Altar). (1488k)
Figure Altar 4 Carved
Figure on Altar 4 carved out of the rock. (1237k)
Mouth Jaguar Crossed Bands
Mouth of a Jaguar with the crossed bands motif above the front figure on Altar 4. (1481k)
Figure Side Altar 4
Figure on the side of Altar 4. (1217k)
Altar 5 Altar Children
Altar 5 (Altar of the Children) dating to the pre-Classic period (700 - 400 BCE). (1.5M)
Altar 5
Altar 5. (1.8M)
Front Altar 5
Front of Altar 5. (1.7M)
Front Figure Altar 5
Front figure of Altar 5, carrying a child. (1.6M)
Figure Right Side Altar
Figure on the right side of Altar 5. (1.7M)
Left Side Altar 5
Left side of Altar 5. (1.9M)
Figure Left Side Altar
Figure on the left side of Altar 5. (1.9M)
Figure Left Side Altar
Figure on the left side of Altar 5. (2M)
Altar 6 Quadrangular Altar
Altar 6 (Quadrangular Altar). (1.6M)
Altar 7 Altar Owls
Altar 7 (Altar of the Owls). (1042k)
Altar 7 Altar Owls
Altar 7 (Altar of the Owls). (1264k)
Monument 1 Colossal Head
Monument 1 (Colossal Head). (1483k)
Left Side Head Monument
Left side of the head of Monument 1. (1.6M)
Right Side Head Monument
Right side of the head of Monument 1. (1.6M)
Monument 3 Young Warrior
Monument 3 (the Young Warrior). (1447k)
Side View Monument 3
Side view of Monument 3. (1459k)
Monument 4 Old Warrior
Monument 4 (the Old Warrior). (1.6M)
Full View Monument 4
Full view of Monument 4. (1467k)
Right Side Monument 4
Right side of Monument 4. (1.9M)
Left Side Monument 4
Left side of Monument 4. (1.7M)
Eyes Monument 4
The eyes of Monument 4. (1.5M)
Mouth Monument 4 Slightly
The mouth of Monument 4, slightly open, showing teeth. (1435k)
Monument 5 Grandmother Dating
Monument 5 (the Grandmother) dating to the pre-Classic period (700 - 400 BCE). (1.6M)
Head Monument 5
Head of Monument 5. (1421k)
Monument 7 Basalt Column
Monument 7 (Basalt Column Tomb), made from natural column basalt. (1.6M)
Monument 20 Cetacean
Monument 20 (Cetacean). (1408k)
Monument 52
Monument 52. (1057k)
Monument 53
Monument 53. (1076k)
Monument 56 Monkey Looking
Monument 56 (Monkey looking to the Sky). This was probably originally oriented horizontally. (1.6M)
Monument 58 Human-like Jaguar
Monument 58 (Human-like Jaguar). (1354k)
Monument 58 Human-like Jaguar
Monument 58 (Human-like Jaguar). (1233k)
Monument 60 Child Jaguar
Monument 60 (Child Jaguar), from Ixhuatlan. (1441k)
Monument 64 Cleft Head
Monument 64 (Cleft Head). (1199k)
Monument 65 Individual Banner
Monument 65 (Individual with Banner). (1.5M)
Monument 65 Acrobat
Monument 65 (Acrobat). (1308k)
Monument 65 Acrobat
Monument 65 (Acrobat). (1225k)
Monument 68 Unfinished Monument
Monument 68 (Unfinished Monument). (1.7M)
Monument 72 Statue Hydrocephalus
Monument 72 (Statue with hydrocephalus). (852k)
Monument 77 Governor
Monument 77 (the Governor). (1333k)
Side View Monument 77
Side view of Monument 77. (1436k)
Rear View Monument 77
Rear view of Monument 77. (1.6M)
Monument 78 Human Head
Monument 78 (Human Head). This monument was apparently destroyed before it was finished. (1.5M)
Monument 80
Monument 80. (1062k)
Stone Figure
Stone figure. (1.6M)
Close-up Head Figure
Close-up of the head of the figure. (1.9M)
Jade Figures
Jade figures. (848k)
Various Pottery Figurines
Various pottery figurines. (691k)
Various Pottery Figurines
Various pottery figurines. (800k)
Pavement 3 Mosaic Made
Pavement 3 (Mosaic), made from Serpentine stones. (1492k)

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Page last updated on Sat Mar 6 16:13:31 2021 (Mountain Standard Time)

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