The scientific tourist #269 — Olmecs in Texas

Imagine my surprise at discovering an Olmec head during a recent visit to the campus of the University of Texas at Austin!

An Olmec in Texas

Yes, the Olmec were an advanced culture for their time, but no — there’s no evidence that they made it as far north as Austin.  This is a replica (a very good one, from the looks of it) of Monument 1 in San Lorenzo.

From the placard:

This sculpture, weighing 18 tons, is an exact copy of the colossal head that was discovered at the Olmec site of San Lorenzo, Veracruz, Mexico. The original is a landmark work of art of the Olmec culture that flourished in southern Mexico 1500 – 400 BCE.

The Universidad Veracruzana presented the replica as a gift to the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies in 2008 in recognition of the close ties between the peoples of the United States and Mexico.

The Olmec were mesoamerica’s first major civilization, and the original source of many cultural innovations that would later be expanded on and extended by subsequent cultures like the Maya and Aztec.  San Lorenzo is the oldest known Olmec center, and dates to about 1150 BC.

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