The Motherland Continued

Olmec, Earliest known depiction of Feathered Serpent











Themes in Olmec sculpture:
Mythic images
Sexual union of jaguar and woman
Figures emerging from caves
Figure holding baby with mask-like head
Effigies of supernatural beings
Human figures
Earth/ jaguar/ rulership imagery











Three kinds of mythic images in Olmec sculpture:
  • Sexual union of jaguar and woman
  • Figures emerging from caves
  • Figure holding baby with mask-like head
Monument 1 at San Lorenzo
Monument I at San Lorenzo
Altar 4 at La Venta.
Olmec, The Las Limas Figure, Veracruz, ca. 800 BCE. Carved from a single piece of Greenstone weighing 132 lbs. 










Sexual Union of Jaguar with a Woman


Oxtotitlan 1-d Mural, Guerrero
Artist's rendition of Oxtotitlan 1-d Mural, Guerrero











Figures Emerging From Caves


Olmec, Hero Twins, San Lorenzo, Early Formative.










Figure Holding Masked Jaguar Baby


Olmec, The Las Limas Figure, Veracruz, ca. 800 BCE , Middle Formative.
Carved from a single piece of Greenstone weighing 132 lbs. 






















Olmec, Votive figure presenting a masked baby, Early Formative.











Effigies of Supernatural Beings


Represents three levels of universe:
Head = sky
Body = Earth
Legs and feet = underworld
Olmec, Kunz Axe, La Venta (Formative Period), c. 1200-500 B.C.E., jadeite, 31 x 16 x 11 cm.











Human Figures


Offering #4, Olmec, La Venta, c. 900 – 400 B.C.E.
Serpentine, jadeite, and granite, figures 6-5/16 to 7-15/16 inches tall, celts 9-5/16 to 10-3/4 inches tall




















Maya ground stone axe











Olmec, Hollow Baby, Early Formative.











Olmec, Wrestler, Early Formative.










Petroglyph I, "El Rey" at Chalcatzingo, Olmec, Middle Formative.











Historical Context
5000 BCE
First complex writing system, cuneiform, developed in Babylonia
Maize first cultivated in the Americas
3000 BCE
First pyramids built in Egypt
2000 BCE
First dynasties of ancient China are founded
1200 - 400 BCE
Olmec Culture
950 BCE
First textbook created in China
600 BCE
Olmecs develop writing
753 BCE
Ancient Rome established
580 - 480 BCE
The Golden Age of Greece
503 BCE
Buddha is born in India
Date assigned to birth of Jesus
CE 44
Julius Cesar assasinated, Roman Empire established
CE 159
Important event at Copan, possibly the establishment of the kingdom
CE 250 - 900
Maya culture flourishes
CE 400
Teotihuacan is the second largest city in the world











Calendric Systems


Mesoamericans measured time with three interlocking calendars:
The Tzolk'in - 260 day divinatory calendar
The haab - 365 solar year
Long Count - tallies the number of days elapsed since creation date





















Elements of the Mesoamerican Calendar System
Tzolk 'in - 260 Day 'Almanac'
  • Comprised of 20 months made up of 13 days
  • Each day identified by one of 20 day names and one of 13 day numbers
  • Children were often known by the day name of their birth
  • Today's tzolk'in date = 1 Ik'
The Haab - 365 day "vague year" rather than 365.25 day "solar year"
  • Comprised of 18 months made up of 20 days + period of five unlucky days (Wayeb)
  • Today's haab date = 0 K'ayab
Imagine both calendars are interlocking wheels. Every 52 years, they complete a full cycle.
When the Tzolk'in and haab are placed together, they create 18,980 unique days known as a "calendar round."
Each cycle is is repeated in sets of named days without reference to a uniquely numbered year.











Long Count - an absolute dating system
  • Measures time elapsed since mythical beginning of Mayan culture:
    • August 13, 3114 BC
    • Ahau 8 Cumku
  • A complete Maya Long Count cycle is 5,125 years long
  • 52 years will pass before the days line up in the same way again
Written in 5 periods:
  • baktun (millennia) = 144,000 days (394 years)
  • katun (century) = 7,200 days (20 years)
  • tun (year) = 360 days
  • winal (month) = 20 day month
  • k'in (day) = day
Today's date in long count = 13 . 0 . 5 . 4 . 2
Imagine the Long Count as a continuous line that does not repeat.











Stela C at Tres Zapotes, Epi-Olmec


Maya Calendar Converter











Stela C at Tres Zapotes, Epi-Olmec











Stela C from Chiapa de Corzo