Smithsonian Olmec Legacy
Artifact Image Gallery
Record Count: (1 - 25 out of 624)
This 1939 map shows the destination of the first Smithsonian - National Geographic archaeological expedition to Tres Zapotes, Veracruz.
This 1939 map shows in more detail the site and the surroundings of the archaeological expedition’s first field season at Tres Zapotes, as well as the location--Arroyo Hueyapa--where the first colossal head was discovered in 1862.
Different versions of this map were published in National Geographic Magazine first in 1939 and then in 1940. The sites of Tres Zapotes, Cerro de las Mesas and La Venta, destinations of the archaeological expeditions led by Matthew Stirling, are all marked on this map.
Maria’s mother preparing food for the members of the archaeological expedition.
Marion Stirling holding an iguana. Iguanas were part of the diet of the local population.
Marion Stirling holding the skin of a jaguar.
Tres Zapotes Stela D. This monument shows the open mouth of an animal, possibly representing the Earth Monster. Three human figures are carved in low relief in the back of the mouth. In 1939 Stirling described the style of this stela as “quite suggestive of Mayan art.” This was, however, before the style was recognized as preceding the Maya and before the name Olmec was applied to the style and to the civilization that produced it.
Tres Zapotes Monument A.This colossal head at Tres Zapotes was the first of 10 similarly large monuments that Matthew Stirling would uncover during the eight archaeological expeditions (four more at La Venta and five at San Lorenzo).
Tres Zapotes Monument A.The colossal head is carved from a block of grey basalt. At the time of its excavation, Stirling speculated that the head had been carved and quarried locally, or possibly at a site 10 miles away. Since then, scholars have suggested various other origins for the basalt.
Marion Stirling kneeling by Tres Zapotes Stela C. During excavations of this area, it appeared that this stone had been set up behind a roughly circular flat stone altar, shown in the background in this photo.
Left: Hollow, mold-made, San Marcos-style figurine, from a cache from trench 23.Right: Hollow figurine, San Marcos-Lirios hybrid style, from a cache from trench 23. These firgurines date from the period of Tres Zapotes occupation well after the Olmec style and culture had ceased to exist as such.
Hollow figurine, San Marcos-Lirios hybrid style, from a cache from trench 23.
Three hollow San Marcos-type animal figurines from a cache from trench 23 at Tres Zapotes.The figurines on the left and the right are mounted on hollow tubes. By inserting a stick through the tube, and mounting round objects at both ends of the stick, the figurines would roll, suggesting these may in fact be toys. Interestingly enough, the wheel was not used in Pre-columbian Mesoamerica.
Lirios-type (?) figurine, representing the head of a man, with pointed beard, earplugs and headdress, from a mound near Tres Zapotes.
Matthew Stirling kneeling by Tres Zapotes Monument G.The features of this monument are so badly damaged that the face cannot be reconstructed. It is one of two monuments at Tres Zapotes with a tenonlike protrusion. Albert Weyerstall referred to this as Monument 3.
Cerro de las Mesas Monument 2 This monument, sculptured in full relief, is 69 inches long, 40 inches wide, and 30 inches thick.
La Venta Monument 4Matthew Stirling reported that a fragment of this colossal head, recovered while “excavating around it, was coated with a smooth-surfaced dark purplish-red paint, indicating that originally the head had been so painted.” (1943b: 58)
Tres Zapotes Monument CEduard Seler had seen this carved stone box in 1908, but it had become reburied. In 1932 Albert Weyerstall referred to it as Monument 5.
Tres Zapotes Monument DMatthew Stirling described this barrel-shaped stone as a receptacle for offerings or as a sacrifical stone. It is 2 feet 10 inches high and carved from basalt.
Tres Zapotes Stela D.“Twenty man power was needed to raise Stela D. It was found in a marshy jungle, in the midst of a small group of mounds, four miles from camp. The heavy stone presented a problem in mechanics as it lay in deep adobe mud.” -- From Stirling 1939: 198
Colossal head, Tres Zapotes Monument A shown in the location where it was first excavated in the 1860s and, again uncovered by Matthew Stirling in 1939.
Tres Zapotes Monument A.Shortly after this colossal head had been excavated, heavy rain caused it to be inundated.
Tres Zapotes Stela C.This stela was found within the first few weeks of the 1939 field season at Tres Zapotes, and turned out to be of great importance for all subsequent research at this and other Olmec sites.
Carved stone yokes, Tres Zapotes.In 1939 M.W.Stirling wrote that these objects were called “yokes,” because “it was once believed they were placed around the necks of persons about to be offered to the gods.” The one on the left is a conventionalized frog, while the other probably represents a jaguar. It is currently believed that these objects represent the yokes that players in the Mesoamerican ball game wore around their waists.
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