Olmec Symposium and Exhibit In Austin

Marita Adair

Olmec Symposium NOV 21-22

Austin, Texas

9-ton Olmec Head The Centerpiece

The unveiling of a gift replica 9-ton colossal stone Olmec head on Nov 19, at the University of Texas’ Mexican Center of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS), in Austin, Texas is such a big deal, that it spawned a free, two-day Olmec Symposium on Nov. 20 and 21. It’s the first major Olmec symposium since the one held in 1996 at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C and it brings together a world of Olmec scholars.

They’ll reveal the latest discoveries about Mexico’s “Mother Culture” as it is often called, which flourished 1500–400 BCE.

The colossal head, that started it all, is a gift of the Universidad Veracruzana at Xalapa, Mexico to LLILAS, where it will be installed amidst great fanfare. It’s one of several such “gifts” in the U.S. The colossal heads are only part of the Olmec mystery, but an eternally intriguing one. Seventeen of them have been unearthed to date. See photos of all the heads and their diverse appearance at: http://tinyurl.com/6coaye The replica head being presented to LLILAS is of San Lorenzo Monument 1 “El Rey” considered a signature piece of pre-Columbian Olmec culture. What a clever and unforgettable “calling card” for Mexico’s vast pre-Hispanic cultures, and one of the most elusive of them all, the Olmec.

The enigmatic Olmec have provided such deeply buried clues that I never expected to learn much more about them my lifetime. Besides the unknowns of Olmec daily life and beliefs and mystery of their link to other Mesoamerican cultures, the Olmec left behind amazing stone sculptures, primarily in the state of Veracruz, but little in the way of pyramidal structures or writing. To my relief, scholars have been digging and unraveling some of the Olmec mysteries and will tell all at the symposium.

Here’s a sample of specific topics and participating scholars:

– Votive Axes and Celts in Formative Mesoamerica – John E. Clark, Brigham Young University

– Thrones – Ann Cyphers, Director of Research at La Venta

– Olmec-inspired Influences on the Nature of Early Maya Divine Kingship – Virginia Fields, Curator of Pre-Columbian Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

– Flesh of God: Maize and the Consolidation of Power in Mesoamerica – David Freidel, Maya scholar and Professor in Anthropology, Southern Methodist University

– A Glimpse at Olmec Rituals at La Venta, Tabasco – Rebecca González Lauck, Director of Research at La Venta

– La Blanca in the Olmec World – Julia Guernsey and Michael Love, authors of 2007 Monument 3 from La Blanca, Guatemala: A Middle Preclassic Earthen Sculpture and its Ritual Associations.

– Symbols of Power among the Olmec: Monumental Sculpture – Sara Ladrón de Guevara, Director of the Museo de Antropología in Xalapa

– The Origins of the Cult to the Sacred Mountain, Springs, Bodies of Water, and the Ball Game at El Manatí – Ponciano Ortiz Ceballos, Instituto de Antropología e Historia (INAH) in Veracruz

– Olmec and the Middle Formative Ceremonial Complex on the Rio Balsas Frontier – F. Kent Reilly III, Texas State University expert on the roll of Olmec rituals.

The Monuments of La Merced, Veracruz, and the El Cascajal Carved Block – María del Carmen Rodríguez Martínez, lead author of The Cascajal Block: The Earliest Precolumbian Writing

Other preeminent Olmec scholars have also been invited to attend, so this could be a chance to meet the most knowledgeable experts on this topic.

Students of Mexico’s museums and culture already know that the exquisite Museo Antropologia in Xalapa http://tinyurl.com/6e7htq is the primary repository of Olmec remains, and rewards any visitor who sees it.

Details and reservation information for the free Symposium are at: http://tinyurl.com/6dh5rv