- 900–500 BCE
The carved stone images Olmec kings wore on their foreheads and chests projected supernatural power. Rulers also portrayed themselves in the form of small figurines, such as this carved serpentine example that depicts a standing man. Both hands have been damaged, and there are small drill holes at the nostrils as well as the earlobes that continue to the lower back of the neck. Finely incised lines indicate the figure is wearing a loincloth, but further costume details are absent. The almond-shaped eyes, flared nostrils, flattened nose, large lips, and down-turned mouth are common facial features among Olmec figurines. As these features are more human-like than supernatural, this image may represent an ancestor or the king himself. The elongated forehead is a sign of cranial deformation, in which head flattening or binding intentionally alters the shape of the skull, a form of ritual beautification common among the Olmec and other Mesoamerican peoples. Objects such as these often accompanied the king on his journey through death to the otherworld.
Carol Robbins, Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.
Carol Robbins, Label text [1968.20], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.
F. Kent Reilly, PhD, DMA unpublished material [1973.17], 1992.