Our adventure on Day 6 took us from Veracruz to Palenque. Our first stop of the day brought us to the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa. The tour was originally scheduled to go to La Venta Park, where they have three of the colossal Olmec heads. Our tour manager said we were going to the museum first and if we had time, we would go to the park.
We were a little disappointed when we heard this; we were really looking forward to seeing the heads. To our surprise, the museum had a whole collection of heads and other recovered pieces from the Olmecas.
We were met by a museum guide who spent about an hour walking us through just a small portion of the museum.
The Olmec heads were carved to look like human heads. All seventeen of the confirmed heads in the Olmec heartland were sculpted from basalt mined in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas mountains of Veracruz. Their height varied from 1.17 to 3.4 meters (3.8 to 11.2 ft) and dates back to at least 900 BC. All of the heads hold similar characteristics: mature individuals, fleshy cheeks, flat noses, and slightly-crossed eyes. Interestingly, the backs of the heads are flat.
We had to do the touristy thing and strike a pose. It is funny how we both ended up with one leg each in the lower half. Well, we thought it was funny.
This pic gives a little perspective of their size.
The boulders traveled 150km (93 miles) from the Sierra de Los Tuxtlas mountains. When you look at the size of the boulders, you stand in awe of how in the world they got them here. To this day, no one has been able to figure out how they got these large boulders from the mountains to their resting place. Another mystery to add to the books.
The Olmec civilization developed in the lowlands of southeastern Mexico between 1500 and 400 BC. The Olmec heartland lies on the Gulf Coast of Mexico within the states of Veracruz and Tabasco, an area measuring approximately 275 kilometers (171 mi) east to west and extending about 100 kilometers (62 mi) inland from the coast. The Olmecs are regarded as the first civilization to develop in Mesoamerica, and the Olmec heartland is one of six cradles of civilization worldwide.
The Olmecs were one of the first inhabitants of the Americas to construct monumental architecture and settle in towns and cities. They were also the first people in the Americas to develop a sophisticated style of stone sculpture.
Here are the descriptions of the main colossal heads
Colossal Head No. 9 (left): This head was discovered by accident at the bottom of a ravine on the San Lorenzo plateau. Part of the nose was either mutilated intentionally or ritually in the form of holes.
Colossal Head No. 3 (center): The facial features of this head are also very different from the others. Some archeologists think it may be a woman. The headdress consists of tied strings, and holes or holes are visible in it, which in Olmec times was practiced as an intentional mutilation.
Colossal Head No. 4 (right): This head was discovered in 1946 and is one of the ten colossal heads of San Lorenzo and is the smallest.
Other Pieces of the Collection
This museum is a Do Not Miss if you are in the area of Xalapa. We could have spent another 2 hours exploring the rest of the exhibits.
Now we’re off to lunch and La Venta Park!