La Venta, Tabasco: a Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art

La Venta, Tabasco: a Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art

La Venta, Tabasco: a Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art

La Venta, Tabasco: a Study of Olmec Ceramics and Art

Excerpt

The present paper has a twofold aim. The first is to describe the excavations of the Smithsonian Institution-National Geographic archeological expeditions at La Venta, in western Tabasco, México, in 1942 and 1943, and to analyze the ceramic materials collected; the second is to describe and analyze a series of art objects from the same site with the object of defining the art style they represent. The work in 1942 was carried out by the writer. Most of the excavations that season consisted of test-pits to locate refuse beds containing pottery, and stratigraphic trenches to collect adequate samples of the local wares for placing the site chronologically in relation to other Mesoamerican cultures. Some exploration of structures was done at the end of the season, and at that time an important series of carvings of jade and other materials was found. In 1943 Drs. Stirling and Wedel carried out excavations, chiefly of structural features of the site, and added considerably to the series of art objects as well as assembling important data on the constructions. Wedel is describing that phase of the work in a separate chapter. He and Stirling have both made notes and other materials available to me for the study of the pottery and of the art objects; Stirling has added other materials from his survey of sites throughout the state of Tabasco and southern Veracruz. However, for errors of treatment and of interpretation of this material only the present writer is to be blamed. The National Geographic Society in addition to sponsoring the field work has very liberally supplied me with prints from their official expedition photographic files, made by the expedition photographer, Mr. Richard Stewart.

The investigations at La Venta were a part of Stirling's program of attack on the problem of Mesoamerican culture growth outside the area known to have been inhabited by Mayan peoples. During Stirling's reconnaissance of La Venta in 1940 he discovered a con-

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