Sculptural monuments known as a "giant heads" form a distinctive type of artifact found at Olmec sites. They were carved into round, basalt boulders of volcanic origen. Sizes vary from a meter to over two meters high. The natural stones are nearly spherical.

One theory suggests they depict historical individuals, leaders of Olmec society, probably deceased at the time of carving. If so, then these heads are precursors of the stelae found in later Mesoamerican centers.

At la Venta several of these heads had been buried under clay pavings. If this was the original intention, then we should not think of them as monuments in our sense of commemoration, since they were not meant to be seen by living humans. Although they may represent ancestors, they may not have been made as memorials. Deceased ancestors may have been regarded as still active in a non-material dimension. The carved heads may have been meant to secure their presence in the ceremonial centre, so that they could be called upon, as elements of natural forces, to support the endeavours of their descendents, or to intercede with other natural forces.

 


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