Olmecs; The Mother Civilization
Nathan Rutz '09 - Today we toured La Venta park in Villermosa. The park is essentially an outdoor museum dedicated to the Olmec culture. The original La Venta site is apparently about 45 minutes away - sometime in the 50’s, the original pieces were moved from where they were discovered to the park in Villermosa. Just this move must have taken a massive effort even with the equipment available then, making it even more impressive that the Olmecs were able to carve and move these rocks some four thousand years ago.
The first thing we saw was a two dimensional depiction of a ruler. The volcanic basalt block is at least ten feet tall and has to weigh something like 10 tons. We saw that the back side of the stone is smooth. Our guide told us that it’s not known if the stone was smoothed to make dragging it easier, or if dragging it wore it down. Kings emerging from inset caves amidst feathered serpents. These monuments seem to commemorate the reign of various kings whose names are often derived from combinations of jungle animals, most often the jaguar.
I was very impressed by the information contained in the carvings, some of which has still not been successfully interpreted by experts. The carvings of kings often had early hieroglyphs or pictures showing captives or animals. We also got to see the famous Olmec heads. Most of them are fairly defaced. I expect that had happened by age or vandals, but apparently they were ritually defaced by Olmecs, perhaps to release the spirits contained in the heads. Even the most well preserved had the characteristic scratch marks of being ritually defaced.
We were the only college age group going through the park, most of the others were young school age kids. Apparently all the kids know English greetings and are more than happy to yell them to people obviously from the USA. I said “Hello” to a passing group of kids and they blew up with happiness and screamed “hello” back to us.
Above Left; Wabash students and professors visiting La Venta Park. Below Right; one of the many stone figures found in the park.