Secrets of the Ancients: Olmec HeadsOver three thousand years ago, in the fertile jungles of lowland Mexico, the first civilization in the Americas was born. Five hundred years before Rome was founded, the Olmec were building great cities with pyramids and ball courts.

Considered by most archaeologists to be the mother culture of Mexico, the roots of the later Maya and Aztec cultures lie with the Olmec.

One of the most extraordinary feats of the ancient Olmec was their monumental sculptures.The inhabitants of the site of La Venta erected huge sculptures, some of which weighed up to 40 tonnes.The most famous of these are the massive stone heads.

Believed to be portraits of their leaders, they are over two meters high and sculpted entirely without the help of metal tools.There are thousands of tonnes of stones at the site but, most extraordinarily of all, these sculptures are found in an area where there is no rock available.

The area identified as the source of the Olmec boulders lies in the Tuxtla mountains over 160 kilometers away. And between these mountains and La Venta the land is criss-crossed with massive rivers and swamps which would have made the transportation even more difficult. So how did the stones get to La Venta?

The thumbnail is made from the cover of book by David Hatcher Childress; art by Terry Lamb.

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