An unsolved mystery of the colossal Olmec heads

The young Olmec warrior

The young Olmec warrior

One of the first people to have lived in Mexico were the Olmec people and you can find their history in the Mexican province of Tabasco. In the city of La Venta colossal Olmec heads made out of rocks were found by archeologists, which nowadays are located at the nearby Villahermosa. There they are exhibited in a beautiful jungle park.

The Triumphal Altar of the Olmec culture

The Triumphal Altar of the Olmecs

Parque La Venta makes it sound as if you are literally standing in La Venta upon arrival, but to be quite frank, you’re in a completely different place. La Venta is actually a swamp area in the Tabasco province. In 1940 a collection of pieces from the Olmec culture was found by several archeologists. The piecesย date around 800 to 400 B.C. and are absolutely fascinating. It’s still not clear how these giant statues were made back then.

In 1958 a native poet called Carlos Pellicer opened the Parque Museo La Venta in the city of Villahermosa where about 36 of these big pieces were placed to save them from oil excavations.

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In the middle of the jungle in Villahermosa you find the La Venta museum and therefore it seems like the statues have never been moved. A little zoo is created in this museum area where in addition you find native animals such as a few jaguars, crocodiles, several birds and even reptiles.

Olmec-The aviary in the zoo part of Museo La Venta

The aviary in the zoo part of La Venta

olmec - The old black jaguar of La Venta

The old black jaguar of La Venta

Olmec-The spotted jaguar of La Venta

The spotted jaguar of La Venta

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Mosaic of the Jaguar

Why la venta got on our to-visit list

A culture that is barely known today is the Olmec culture. Yet it was possibly one of the first cultures – if not the first, to have reigned over Mesoamerica. Even before the famous Maya, Inca and Aztec cultures.

After watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel we got really intrigued. We wanted to see the incredible artifact and mysterious ruins that are mentioned in the episodes for ourselves. On top of our list was La Venta, which had been appearing several times during the episodes of season 4 in Mexico. During the Ancient Aliens episodes it is suggested that the Olmec heads represent African people in flight helmets. Olmec heads don’t look at all like the natives of the area, but why would ancient civilizations create African figures in Mexico? Walking through the park of La Venta does raise many more questions.

How did the ancient Olmec civilization create such perfect statues by just using stone?”

Looking at the statues for ourselves we see no similarities to other statues in Mexico and we can’t stop wonder why these colossal heads are so different from the other sculptures in Mesoamerica. Around the stone age the Olmec civilization was existing and back then they didn’t have the tools you’d expect them to have used for these pieces. Stone had to be carved by stone as back then metal and bronze shouldn’t have been available to the Olmec culture yet.

How did the ancient Olmec civilization manage to move these colossal heads?”

On the Southern part of Veracruz, about 70 km away from where the original Olmec site used to be, the most nearby necessary material for the giant statues can be found. When you think about the weight of the colossal heads, which is about 20 to 40 ton a piece, I can’t quite figure how they would’ve moved them. However, there are several theories about how the Olmecs could have transported the stone heads and it seems like the most likely one is about wooden rollers that were placed below the statue to move them without damage. The question remains, how many people are needed to move all those tons of rocks? According to calculations of researches about 20 people would be needed to move 0,5 ton, while the heaviest stones weighs about 40 ton! Go figure.

Another problem would have been the area where the Olmecs used to live, as it exists mainly of swamps. I believe it would be impossible to move such a heavy item over wet lands.

It’s a mystery to me, but it is very interesting. To see the colossal Olmec heads for myself is a true dream come true and an archeological desire to discover more about this ancient Olmec culture has been born.

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Standing in front of the ‘old warrior’ statue

Olmec Monkey looking at the sky

Monkey looking at the sky

How to get to Museo La Venta in Villahermosa

Needing to get from the Oaxaca province to the Quintana Roo province to catch your flight back home, wherever that is, is a bit of a hassle. Well, Most of all it is a long bus ride. We had to go from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic. By splitting up the bus trip in two we create a stop at Villahermosa in the Tabasco province and as a result that allows us to visit what we so desperately want to see. It’s not like the city of Villahermosa is that interesting to go to besides the Olmec heads, but this is so much worth it!

Here’s how you should go:

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Stela of the King

 

First of all take an ADO bus to Villahermosa and make sure to arrive early so you can spend the entire day at Museo La Venta. Preferably you buy a bus ticket upon arrival to Villahermosaย for the continuation of your trip as the city doesn’t have much more to offer as mentioned earlier than the visit to the Olmec heads. Finally after arriving to Villahermosa you head straight to the taxis for the Parque Museo La Venta.

Address: Boulevard Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, s/n Villahermosa, Tabasco.

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 8:00 to 16:00.

Cost: $40 MXN for tourists, $30 MXN for locals, $10 MXN for students.

Olmec-The traveler

The traveler

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The Grandmother

Olmec-The unfinished monument

The unfinished monument

Olmec-Cetacean

Cetacean

Olmec-Mexico-A curious Coati

A curious Coati

Olmec-Mexico-Altar of the children

Altar of the children

Olmec-Mexico-The governor

The governor

Olmec-Mexico-Child Jaguar

Child Jaguar

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Would you visited the Museo La Venta in Villahermosa? What do you think of the colossal Olmec heads?

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.

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