ANCIENT INDIAN CIVILIZATIONS
The Olmecs had early achievements in art. They made fine pottery and carved jade jewelry.
Perhaps the most incredible findings from the Olmec culture are the sculptures. The Olmec used wood, basalt and jade to make the statues. The wooden artifacts are said to be the oldest in Mesoamerica.
The Olmec used basalt to make colossal heads. The size of these heads ranged from 5 feet to 11 feet tall. Some say the heads represent sacrificial offering. Others think they portray the elite Olmec ancestors. These heads have also been interpreted as being warriors or ball players.
Basalt was also used to carve thrones.
The Olmec used art to glorify rulers by making them monuments of super natural creatures to portray them such as part human, part beast. The beast was usually the jaguar. It is believed that these monuments were annihilated after the death of the leader. The figurines made of jade were small and sexless. Some of the more elaborate statues wore extensive headdress with a long train, and rectangular chest plates, sat cross-legged, leaned forward and looked straight ahead.
A characteristic motif of Olmec art is a human face with a jaguar mouth, sometimes called a "were-jaguar" (as in werewolf). This suggests a derivation of Olmec religion from shamanistic shape-shifting. There is evidence that the Olmecs practiced human sacrifice, including that of infants.
Olmec Mysticism and Gods
The Olmec Indians
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