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Art & Music                   1,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

At En Hatzeva, a site in the Negev 20 miles southwest of the Dead Sea, the archaeologists have discovered a hoard of religious artifacts, including shattered cultic figures that bear striking resemblances to Edomit material. Among the 75 objects are seven limestone incense altars, some stone sculptures with stylized human features, chalices and knee-high clay stands in the shape of human figures that were presumably used for making offerings to deities. (96)

Egypt

 Egyptian art challenges Western notions about aesthetics. For the Egyptians, art was mainly functional and had a purpose--it was done so that people and things could live forever. Wall frescoes, statues, and drawings were all done not just to record an image, but "to create and maintain a perfect world in which the good life ... could continue to flourish without opposition from the bad." Therefore, decay and imperfection are seldom shown in Egyptian art--people and objects are shown in ideal condition, since they are meant to be part of an ideal afterlife. And given this purpose, people and objects, whether loaves of bread, geese, gardens, or boxes, should be depicted in their most recognizable forms and positions, and not necessarily from a single point of view or in perspective. (47)

It seemed, at any rate, that the Hopi were descended from the Philistines/Carians/Lycians. But what was the connection with the horned-helmet people? I had to go to Egypt for that. Some time in the thirteenth to the twelfth century BC. There, in a relief, is pictured a battle between the feather-headdress people and the horned-helmet people: relief from Medinet Habu, 1200 BC (above). The horned-helmet people are Shardinians, who are another subtribe of the People of the Sea, also from "Asia Minor." (120)

…I wasn't surprised to find the sea peoples, Carians, Shardinians, Philistines linked in Egypt. I'd already seen them linked in the New World, and I'd already seen their characteristic geometric (triangles/spirals) pottery in Lower Egypt, fronting the Mediterranean: predynastic (Gerzean) pots from Egypt (above). (120)

Indus Valley

...the flat, squished-down nose, the wide face, and the thick lips fit the description of the Dravidians in the Rig Veda, and the faces from La Venta are almost exact replicas of the faces found in the ruins of the Khmer empire, an "Indian" empire that spread throughout Southeast Asia beginning before Christ and lasting up into the fifteenth century. Could the cities of the Maya--Copan, Tikal, Uxmal, Palenque--be part of the same Indian empire that produced At Preah Ko, Banteai Srei, Baphuon, Bayon, Angkor Thorn, Angkor Wat (Cambodia and Vietnam) as well as the temples at Pagan (Burma) and Borobudur (Java)? Of course, our Mayan, and even more so, Olmec ruins would be very early expressions of this imperial Indian impulse, and many of the later Khmer cities would exhibit very different motifs…(120)

The so-called Harappa stage of the great cities of Mohenjo-daro, Chanhu-daro, and Harappa (c. 2500-1200/1000 BC), which bursts abruptly into view, without preparation, already fully formed and showing many completely obvious signs of inspiration from the earlier high centers of the West, yet undeniable signs, also, of a native Indian tradition - this too already well developed. For on two of the stamp-seals of the period we find figures seated on low thrones in the meditating yoga posture. One of these is flanked by two kneeling worshipers and rearing serpents, while the other, with two gazelles reposing beneath his seat, is surrounded by four wild beasts ­ a water buffalo, rhinoceros, elephant, and tiger. The seated yogi among the beasts wears on his head a curious headdress with a high crown and two immense horns, which, as Heinrich Zimmer has pointed out, resembles to a striking degree one of the most prominent symbols of early Buddhist art, the sign of the so-called "Three Jewels" (symbolizing the Buddha, the doctrine, and the order of the Buddha's followers), which is in the form of a kind of trident. The Hindu god Shiva carries a trident also; and among the Greeks, as we know, this same sign was the attribute of Poseidon (Neptune), the god of the watery deep. (128)

Another important art miniature of the period is a well-formed stone torso, 3 3/4 inches high, of a male dancer in a posture suggesting that of the later dancing Shiva of the South Indian bronzes. The figure, apparently, was ithyphallic, which would have accorded with Shiva's character as a phallic as well as meditative god. And yet another dancer - a beautifully cast copper female nude, 4 1/4 inches high - indicates, further, that already in the second millennium BC the temple dance had been developed, which in India, until most recent times, has been one of the principal liturgical arts. Ceramic female figurines discovered in dwellings likewise point to an extension of the cult of the goddess from the Near East. However, there have been found, in addition to these images, a number of simple sexual symbols: cone-shaped or phallic erect stones, denoting the male, and circular stones with a hollow center, representing the female. Such primitive forms (known as lingam and yoni) are still the most common objects of worship in India, whether in temples, in the open country, or in the household cult. Surviving from the tradition of the neolithic, they outnumber statistically all the other types of Indian sacred images, and occur most commonly in association, specifically, with Shiva and his goddess, Devi. (128)

China

 Like many ancient peoples, they seem to have sought a basic symmetry in all things. All temples and tombs were oblong or square and oriented to the four cardinal directions. Bronzes were always symmetrical, and even the messages inscribed on turtle shells for divinations were repeated on the right and left sides. The world was conceived of as square, the wind as blowing from four quarters, and four groups of foreigners were thought to live on China's borders. Throughout their art, architecture, and literature, elements appear two by two, four by four, and in other intricate but symmetrical arrangements. (49)

On the wall over my desk hangs a gold mask from another pre-Inca Peruvian coastal culture, the Chimu. It has the same orientalesque eyes, the same squat, flat nose, the carefully delineated ears (and earrings!) as the face on a bronze Shang broadax. In Shang and Chavin art, nothing stays in a definite, neat category. The monstrous and the chimerical (always beautifully symmetrical!) are the rule rather than the exception. (120)

Nor could I fail to see the similarity between Shang bone handles and the work of the "totem pole" Indians on the Pacific Northwest coast: stylized, exaggeratedly decorated figures in serial progression, mounted one on top of the other. Shang bone handles were essentially miniature totem poles. (120)

One prehistoric pot particularly intrigued me. It didn't look prehistoric at all. It wasn't just clay, turned, painted, incised, and baked, but a highly finished work of art, covered with a spiral pattern inside of a larger zigzag, with animal heads for spouts and decorations. It seemed like the prototype of not merely Shang but all the geometrical, stylized art of the South Seas and the Americas. It is a Hsiao-t'un piece, and the Hsiao-t'un culture is a dominant influence over all prehistoric Chinese cultures. Its place of origin? The Gobi desert, Manchuria, the area that was later to serve as the great walled barrier between what came to be known as Chinese and "barbarian." (120)

The High Neolithic. The most important archaeological site in the whole of the Far East is at Anyang, in the northeastern comer of Honan, where the Swedish geologist J. G. Andersson (the same to whom we owe the find of Cboukoutien) discovered three superimposed strata of pottery, representing the earliest levels of the Chinese high neolithic and hieratic city state, as follows: the painted pottery of the Yangshao culture level (c. 2200-1900 BC), the black pottery of the Lungshan culture level (c. 1900-1523 BC), and the white pottery and bronze sacrificial vessels of the Shang culture level (1523-1027 BC, shown above). (128)

The evidence of the next stratum, though, is much more abundant: the level, namely, of the white pottery of the Shang Dynasty (c. 1523-1027 BC). Here the basic socio-political structure of the later Chinese empire can be seen to have been already laid. Bronze-casting, tools and weapons of bronze, war chariots drawn by yoked steeds, a highly developed writing system, chamber burials and human sacrifices, an impressive architecture, gabled and colonnaded, advanced stone carvings, oracle bones, and a great passion for the hunt as a royal sport mark the flowering of an elegant, highly developed civilization, following essentially the lines laid down some fifteen hundred years earlier in Ur, Kish, Lagash, Erech, and Nippur in Mesopotamia. An important feature of considerable interest, however, is the novel art style that appears at this time; for although many of its themes are derived directly from the West (entwining serpents, antithetical beasts with a human figure between, and the hero subduing beasts, for example), the style itself and the manner of composition through which its themes are rendered not only are distinctive but also represent the earliest appearance anywhere of certain basic traits characteristic of the circum-Pacific arts, whether in the Old World or in the New. The first of these is the principle of the totem pole, a piling up of similar forms in vertical series. A second device consists in splitting the body to be represented, either down the front or down the back, and opening it like a book. A third renders in a particular way decorative organizations of angular spirals and meanders. Furthermore, many of the Shang face-formations and body postures are unmistakable, in whatever cultural context they may appear. (128)

Europe

 

The other looked like horns. Horns on a helmet of some kind. The feather bonnet I'd seen on the very last page of Heras' Studies in Proto-Indo-Mediterranean Culture: "People of the Sea" from Thebes at the time of Rameses III. Heras quotes Jarde's La Formation du Peuple Grec. These sea-people are the “undoubted ancestors of the classical people of Greece and Asia Minor.” They had to be the ancestors of the so-called "classical peoples," because it was the history of the Sea People which became the myths of the Greeks and Egyptians and later the Romans. (120)


Feathered headdress from Phaistos disk (left) and head of "Philistine," 1200 BC. (120)

Professor H. Frankfort, demonstrating how both the art of making the Mesopotamian cylinder seals and the subjects depicted on them spread throughout the ancient world, reproduces the design on a seal found in Crete and dated to the thirteenth century BC. The seal design clearly depicts a rocket ship moving in the skies and propelled by flames escaping from its rear. (146)

South America  

The domestication of cotton between about 4000 BC and 1200 BC provided a relatively cheap source of textiles, and cotton textiles were complemented by a highly developed weaving craft in which reeds and other grasses were woven into sandals, clothes, and many other products. Using mineral and plant-derived dyes, ancient Andeans decorated many of their textiles with a wide variety of motifs, including geometric figures and stylized people and animals. (52)

As we saw in the cases of Egypt, Mesoamerica, and elsewhere, "art" was not just a minor peripheral part of the rise of ancient civilizations: art was an integral part of this process. In all early states, the cities, rank-wealth hierarchies, and functionally interdependent economies that arose were presaged by the spread of an art style that was usually expressed mostly directly in pottery. Peru was no exception to this pattern. After about 900 BC, people living at Chavin de Huantar and other sites in the highlands of northern Andean South America began to use the same styles of decoration in their pottery, architecture, and other artifacts.

…the general tenor of Chavin diffusion is reminiscent of the initial spread of Olmec art in Mesoamerica—a realatively simple extension of aesthetic and perhaps religious traditions in the absence of elaborate political hierarchies or economic elites. Chavin de Huantar, the site after which the art style is named, (though it is probably not the earliest or even most important Chavin settlement), was occupied for all or most of the period between about 850 and 200 BC. Gold was the medium of the finest art in the Chavin era, as craftsmen cut, embossed, annealed, cast, and welded it into ear spools, nose ornaments, plaques, crowns, and face coverings for corpses. Copper and silver were also extensively used for making ornaments, and weaving became a fine art as well. (52)

The Raimondi stela (Chavin) is a huge stone relief of a man's body with a bull's head and a cat's hands and feet. The bull's head is repeated in geometrized patterns four times and can be turned upside down, and a whole series of new faces appear where the eyes of the right-side-up bull become the nostrils of the bull upside down. It has snake "hair," a complex snake pattern around all the multiple heads, and a snakehead belt. It carries a large "staff" in each hand. It is one of the few Amerindian gods that show the "multiplying effect" that became so I common in post-Vedic Indian sculpture--the tendency to create icons with multiple arms or heads in order to account for their basic ontological complexity. (120)

But how can this complex, magnificent stela have anything to do with Siva as Lord of Yoga? Siva's mount is a white bull which represents lust! The bull is also the emblem which appears on Siva's banner. Siva is emblematically a bull. But Siva as the master of lust, as the Lord of Yoga, completely tames and controls the bull. At the moment of complete control, he becomes the bull. Essentially the Raimondi stela is another representation of Siva at the moment of attaining perfect self-mastery. Even the serpents coiled around the icon's head have a significance related to Yoga. The serpent is phallic, relating to the spinal cord, a support of the Yogi in his spiritual conquests, and its energy (serpent-power) is actually the source of spiritual energy to be used in this conquest. The "staffs" that Siva carries in his hands are tipped with tridents, the preeminent symbol of Siva, and represent the "three subtle arteries of the body...which, according to the theory of yoga, ascend from the root center at the base of the spinal cord to reach the 'lotus of a thousand petals' at the summit of the head." (120)

Professor Heine-Geldern, tracing the trans-Pacific courses of the various Far Eastern cultural influences, has pointed out, among other significant signs of a long-continued impact on America: art motifs of the Chinese eighth century BC, from the coastal states of Wu and Yiieh, in the Chavin culture of the same period in the Central Andes (gold work and fine weaving now appearing in America for the first time); art motifs of seventh- and sixth­ century China in the Salinar culture of the North Central Andes, dating from the first centuries AD; art motifs of seventh- to fourth­ century China in the Tajin culture of Middle America, dating from c. 200-1000 AD; the art of the late Chou Dynasty bronzes and jades (fifth to third centuries BC) reflected in the Uhia style of Middle America (c. 200-1000 AD)...(128)

Mesoamerica

 The core ideology of the Olmec is hard to discern and decipher, however. Judging from their art style, the Olmec seem to have believed that at some distant time in the past a woman mated with a jaguar and gave issue to a line of half-human/half-feline monsters, or "were-jaguars." These were portrayed in pottery, stone, and other media in a highly stylized way, usually as fat infants of no discernible sexuality. (51)

Another Olmec site, San Lorenzo, was not excavated until 1966, when archaeologist Michael Coe and his team made a number of startling discoveries. During their digs they unearthed what are certainly among the strangest artifacts in the world: the Olmec heads. Five in number, they are massive pieces of carved basalt that appear to have been deliberately buried in a specific alignment. The heads range in weight from 5 to almost 20 tons, stand 6 to 10 feet tall, and the largest has a circumference of more than 20 feet. With the nearest basalt quarry being 63 miles away, how were these massive sculptures dragged to the burial site? Indeed, why were they carved in the first place--and why were they buried if they were intended as monuments? Archaeologists remain stumped. But the central mystery of the heads is their appearance: their features are unmistakably Negroid, yet according to anthropologists, there were no Africans in pre-Columbian Mexico during the time of the Olmecs! (68)

While the graves at La Venta contained several large heads, pieces of jade jewelry, and other artifacts, the vast majority of Olmec artifacts are sculptures: figurines, decorated stone steles, votive axes, and altars. Some of these were polished to a mirror-like sheen and all demonstrate well-developed skills in sculptural design and carving techniques with a level of sophistication very advanced in comparison to the primitive artwork generally associated with early agrarian cultures. Both the basalt and jade often used by the Olmecs are difficult materials to work with. Basalt is a hard volcanic rock and jade is a very hard mineral rated at 7 on the hardness scale that places diamonds at 10. It takes time, great skill, and the right tools to create an intricate piece of art from such materials. The Olmecs did not have metal tools so we are left to wonder how they crafted such pieces and where they learned their techniques. (68)

Moving to La Venta, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, we come to the very point of origin of the Olmec culture, which is dated about 800 BC. Here again, among the Indian figures, appeared unmistakable African heads, big and powerful, and the bearded Semitic faces. There, too, was found a ceremonial centre whose walls had been constructed out of basalt columns, each column ten feet tall and weighing two tons, that had been brought from a quarry sixty miles distant. Inside the centre was excavated a stela, fourteen feet high, seven feet wide and almost three feet in thickness; revealing two seven foot high figures. The face of one had been broken off. The other was a bearded European face, looking, the United States excavators thought remarkably like Uncle Sam. Both figures wore pointed, upturned shoes of a style associated with the Near East. The Etruscans, too, wore these upturned shoes. This combination at La Venta again provides proof of a combined foreign influence of a type that the Mediterranean Seas alone could supply. (135)

...the flat, squished-down nose, the wide face, and the thick lips fit the description of the Dravidians in the Rig Veda, and the faces from La Venta are almost exact replicas of the faces found in the ruins of the Khmer empire, an "Indian" empire that spread throughout Southeast Asia beginning before Christ and lasting up into the fifteenth century. (p.47) Could the cities of the Maya--Copan, Tikal, Uxmal, Palenque--be part of the same Indian empire that produced At Preah Ko, Banteai Srei, Baphuon, Bayon, Angkor Thorn, Angkor Wat (Cambodia and Vietnam) as well as the temples at Pagan (Burma) and Borobudur (Java)? Of course, our Mayan, and even more so, Olmec ruins would be very early expressions of this imperial Indian impulse, and many of the later Khmer cities would exhibit very different motifs…(120)

Helmeted heads from southern Sumatra (left) and Mexico (Olmec). (120)


Funerary masks from “Greater Phoenicia,” the ones on the right from Mexico, the one on the left from Carthage. (120)


Tuxtla statuette (Olemc) (120)

In the Chicago Museum of Natural History there is a ceremonial mace head that was dug up from a depth of 15 feet below mud level in Lake Texcoco (Mexico) that looks very Assyrian. A pendant-amulet was found in New Mexico bearing the name of Naram-Sin: Whether or not the Texcoco mace-head portrait is Naram-Sin himself or some other Assyrian warrior is debatable, but it seems certain that Naram-Sin (+ "war-party") was in prehistoric America. …Naram-Sin, the ancient Assyrian king, was quite simply a Phoenician. Certainly the Old World evidence points completely in the direction of Naram-Sin's having been in the New World. Sargon I, his grandfather (we're talking about 2800 BC and thereabouts), calls himself "Emperor of the Four Quarters of the World," "Lord of the Lands of the Lower Sea" (Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea) and of the Upper or Western Sea (Mediterranean), and of the "Tin-lands beyond the Western Sea" (Britain, Bolivia, Mexico, the Southwest.) (120)

Various Olmec carvings (above) 

Professor Heine-Geldern, tracing the trans-Pacific courses of the various Far Eastern cultural influences, has pointed out, among other significant signs of a long-continued impact on America: art motifs of the Chinese eighth century BC, from the coastal states of Wu and Yiieh, in the Chavin culture of the same period in the Central Andes (gold work and fine weaving now appearing in America for the first time); art motifs of seventh- and sixth­ century China in the Salinar culture of the North Central Andes, dating from the first centuries AD; art motifs of seventh- to fourth­ century China in the Tajin culture of Middle America, dating from c. 200-1000 AD; the art of the late Chou Dynasty bronzes and jades (fifth to third centuries BC) reflected in the Uhia style of Middle America (c. 200-1000 AD)...(128)

Matthew Stirling, the American archaeologist who excavated La Venta in the 1940s, made a number of spectacular discoveries there. Even before excavation began, the tip of a massive chunk of rock had been visible jutting out of the ground in the centre of the enclosed area...Stirling and his team worked for two days to free the great rock. When exposed it proved to be an imposing stele fourteen feet high, seven feet wide and almost three feet thick. The carvings showed an encounter between two tall men, both dressed in elaborate robes and wearing elegant shoes with turned-up toes. Either erosion or deliberate mutilation (quite commonly practised on Olmec monuments) had resulted in the complete defacement of one of the figures. The other was intact. It so obviously depicted a Caucasian male with a high-bridged nose and a long, flowing beard that the bemused archaeologists promptly christened it 'Uncle Sam'. (152)

The same went for two other Caucasian figures I was able to identify among the surviving monuments from La Venta. One was carved in low relief on a heavy and roughly circular slab of stone about three feet in diameter. Dressed in what looked like tight-fitting leggings, his features were those of an Anglo-Saxon. He had a full pointed beard and wore a curious floppy cap on his head. In his left hand he extended a flag, or perhaps a weapon of some kind. His right hand, which he held across the middle of his chest, appeared to be empty. Around his slim waist was tied a flamboyant sash. The other Caucasian figure, this time carved on the side of a narrow pillar, was similarly bearded and attired.  (152)

...the Phoenicians, who had left unmistakable examples of their distinctive handiwork in many parts of the ancient world, had not done so at the Olmec sites in Central America. Neither the negro heads, nor the reliefs portraying bearded Caucasian men showed any signs of anything remotely Phoenician in their style, handiwork or character. Indeed, from a stylistic point of view, these powerful works of art seemed to belong to no known culture, tradition or genre. (152)

Beginning about 1400 BC in the tropical lowlands of Mexico's southern Gulf Coast, the Olmecs achieved an unprecedented level of social and political complexity. At San Lorenzo, at least ten rulers were memorialized between 1400 and 1000 BC with colossal stone portrait heads such as the one from Hueyapan. The hard basalt stone used to fashion these heads, along with the multi-ton table-top thrones and over a hundred sculptures of humans and supernatural beings were brought from volcanic slopes 60 km away. The largest of these sculptures weigh up to 40 tons and the stones were transported as much as 99 km from their sources across swamps and rivers. The inhabitants of San Lorenzo reshaped the plateau on which the capital rose with extensive terraces and built causeways across the swampy lowlands to river ports. Later, between 1000 and 400 BC, the rulers of La Venta constructed a carefully planned civic and ceremonial precinct with over 30 earthen mounds, the largest rising 30 m above the grand plaza below. (159)

After about 1400 BC, widespread sharing of ceramic motifs and long-distance exchange of obsidian, shell, serpentine, jade, and artifacts shaped from iron ore indicate increasingly intensive interaction among different regions in Mesoamerica.The Olmecs also participated to an unusual degree in the exchange of prestige goods. Literally tons of iron ore in the form of perforated iron cubes and polished mirrors were imported from Chiapas and Oaxaca to San Lorenzo. (159)

Carved stone votive axe as published by Chavero (1888). (159)

Ritual use of the spring resumed in the Macayal A phase (ca. 1400-1200 BC). The wooden busts that first brought attention to El Manari were laid singly or in groups of two or three with wooden staffs and wood-handled knives, bundles of plants, mats, and red balls of hematite. The sculptures exhibit the typical cylindrical head deformation and down-turned mouths of Olmec figurines. Ear pendants, ear spools, and pectorals adorn some of the sculptures, and some displayed red and black paint around their mouths. Polished greenstone axes and rubber balls also were offered, reflecting continuity in this ritual practice from the Manati phase. Human infants were apparently offered at the spring as well, for their skeletons, some complete, others dismembered, and one fitted with a cord through holes drilled in the skull, occur among the wooden busts. (159)

Another impressive find dating to the Macayal phase was discovered at La Merced, on a small island in the swamp about 4 km northeast of El Manati. Here, over six hundred ceremonial axes, or celts, mainly of serpentine, were placed in three separate events, the earliest two of which are associated with radiocarbon dates of1510-1380 and 1410-1200 BC, respectively. The celts in the earliest set of offerings also were the best finished, and some were accompanied by polished iron ore fragments. The second and third sets of offerings were dominated by unfinished celt performs, or "pseudocelts," in various stages of production. Among the most interesting elements in the second set of offerings is an anthropomorphic axe, christened "El Bebe," representing an infant with feline features, which itself holds an axe on its chest. Similar to the anthropomorphic axes that helped to originally define the Olmec style, this is the first found in stratigraphic context, and it is earlier than the Middle Formative date generally assigned to such axes. Also significant is a square stone slab carved in low relief with the face of a feline - or "Olmec dragon" - with a cleft head and four rectangular cleft elements at the corners. (159)

Monumental stone sculpture is the hallmark of Olmec culture. To be sure, stone effigy bowls were produced beginning around 1650 BC in coastal Chiapas and small stone carvings of ca. 1200-1000 BC are known from San Jose Mogote in Oaxaca. ...over 200 monumental sculptures are known from Olman, and easily a third of them come from San Lorenzo and its environs. Measuring from 1.47 to 3.4 m tall and weighing from 6 to 50 tons, the massive heads are all fitted with close-fitting headdresses resembling old-time football players' helmets. Each is unique, with different insignia and adornments on the headdress, a variety of ear ornaments, specific facial features, and a range of expressions from stern or placid to gently smiling. ...the Olmecs preferred the hard basalt found in the Tuxtlas some 60 km away, which they could only have obtained with a tremendous expenditure of effort. It is estimated that transporting a single colossal head would have required the labor of more than 1,500 persons over three to four months. (159)

Also distinctive are the massive, flat-topped rectangular sculptures commonly known as table-top altars. Like the colossal heads, they come in a range of sizes, from 4.6 to nearly 40 tons. Frequently, the altars depict a human emerging from a niche on the front of the monument, with other individuals carved in low relief on its sides. Sometimes the niche, usually interpreted as a cave, is depicted as the open maw of an earth- or sky-monster. ...based on the contexts of the altars, their iconography, and analogy with the Classic Maya, that the table-top monuments functioned simultaneously as thrones and ancestral altars. Unfortunately, most Olmec sculptures lack good stratigraphic contexts that would establish a minimum age for the monuments, and many appear to have been reset long after they were carved. (159)

\A more common motif in Olmec sculpture is that of a human seated crosslegged and holding in his or her hands the floppy, inert, presumably dead figure of a were-jaguar baby. (159)

The Azuzul "acropolis" is a culturally modified hill at the southern point of the Lorna del Zapote ridge, which runs southward from San Lorenzo. The hill and the monuments on it would have been visible from the then-active Azuzul branch of the Coatzacoalcos River. On a paved surface about midway up the hillside, three sculptures had been arranged together in a profoundly evocative scene. Though the statues had fallen over, their original settings are easily reconstructed. Two exquisitely carved life-size human figures, one behind the other, sit before the more crudely but powerfully carved figure of a feline seated on its haunches. A second, larger feline was set a few meters up the slope. Like the San Martin Pajapan monument, the nearly identical human figures each grasp a horizontal bar with the right hand underneath and the left hand on top, as if poised to set it upright as the axis mundi. (159)

Placed at the summit of an isolated volcano in the eastern Tuxtla Mountains, the human figure [the San Martin Pajapan monument], half-crouched and leaning forward, grasps a carved bar in an attitude similar to that of the El Azuzul twins. Its elaborate headdress bears the mask of a supernatural with cleft head, almond-shaped eyes, and snarling mouth. A mass of plumes cleft into four parts flows behind the mask, and vegetation sprouts from an element above the plumes shaped like a table-top altar, the overhanging ends of which are cleft in four parts like the plumes. The referents of this headdress appear to relate to maize and to rain, reflecting widespread Mesoamerican beliefs that place the abodes of rain gods amid clouded mountaintops. (159)

Seated on massive thrones above their image in the niche-cave below, Olmec rulers expressed their roles as intermediaries between the levels of the cosmos. The same concept may have been expressed by figures like the El Azuzul twins and the San Martin Pajapan monument, seemingly poised to raise a ceremonial bar as the axis mundi that connects the earthly plane with the realms below and above. Combinations of human, avian, feline, crocodilian, and ophidian features on individual images invoked the powers of the natural and spiritual realms, as did arraying humans, felines, and other beasts in narrative scenes. (159)

 

The Olmecs obtained their obsidian from diverse sources in Mexico and Guatemala at distances ranging from 200 km to more than 500 km...but the paragon of elite paraphernalia was greenstone, and above all jade, laboriously polished and carved with the ancient symbols of supernatural power and shamanic ritual. Jadeite was not only difficult to acquire, but owing to its hardness, which is greater than steel, it also was difficult to shape with the tools available to the Olmecs. Forming even a single jade bead would require many hours of sawing, drilling, grinding, and polishing with quartz sand or another hard abrasive. That Olmec artisans and their contemporaries were able to achieve the aesthetic heights of their finest jade figurines represents a triumph of patience, skill, and vision. Moreover, the long treks into strange lands to obtain the material, the technical skill required to execute the carvings, the esoteric knowledge embodied in their iconography, and the symbolic associations of their green and blue colors with water and fertility made Olmec jades the quintessential objects of status and power. Over 3,000 jade objects were recovered from Complex A at La Venta alone, reflecting in spectacular fashion an explosion in the exchange of this precious commodity across Mesoamerica. (159)

The most famous...is Offering 4, a scene of sixteen human figurines, one in course sandstone and the rest in jade and serpentine. The figurines, painted red with cinnabar, were set upright in red sand as if frozen in the performance of a ceremony and then covered with white sand. The lone sandstone figure stood before six celts set upright like stelae. In front of him filed four individuals, and the remaining figures stood in a semicircle to witness the event. Afterwards the entire court was covered with a series of clay floors. (159)

...Altar 4, weighs some 40 tons and ranks among the greatest masterpieces of Olmec art (p.167). The central figure wears a harpy eagle headdress and feather cape and is seated cross-legged in a niche framed by four stylized maize ears. He grasps in his right hand a twisted rope that extends around the side of the throne to wrap around the wrist of a captive or lineal relative in low relief. Another rope extends from under his left knee around the opposite, effaced, side of the throne. The niche itself suggests the maw of the supernatural earth-monster whose upper jaw and face are carved in low relief on the projecting upper band of the throne. Crossed bands in the supernatural's mouth identify the niche as an entrance and geometric bands symbolizing earth and sky flank the supernatural face. Thus the ruler in the niche is poised at the interface of underworld, earth, and sky, and is framed by visual references to fertility and to dominance over, or kinship with, other leaders in a perfect allegory of the sources of his earthly and supernatural power. (159)

Guerrero has produced all but one of the painted murals known from the Early and Middle Formative periods. The most famous examples appear on cave and cliff walls at Juxtlahuaca and Oxtotitlan in east-central Guerrero. Nearly a kilometer deep in the farthest recesses of the cave, a scene in vivid colors shows a large figure wearing spotted jaguar-skin gloves and leggings, a brown cape over a red, yellow, and black-striped tunic, and a green-feathered headdress. In his left hand he holds a long, curved object, possibly a rope, which directs the viewer's attention to a small seated figure with black face and beard and red-painted body. Other paintings in the cave treat mythological themes involving a red-four-legged beast covered by a jaguar skin and a red serpent with a feathered headdress and crossed bands in the eye. (159)

Chalcatzingo's monuments are organized into broad thematic groupings that served to demarcate different areas of sacred and ceremonial space. To the south, on and around Cerro Chalcatzingo, the carvings depict mythico-religious themes. High on the hillside, cloud and rain symbols are prevalent, whereas carvings on the lower slopes emphasize zoomorphic supernaturals and humans masked to resemble them, often in an aspect of domination over human figures. In contrast, monuments recovered from the terraces to the north mainly depict specific individuals and relate to themes of rulership and political alliance.


Monument 12, carved on a boulder found far to the west and lower on the hillside, depicts a human who appears to be flying, hence its nickname, "El Volador." (159)

At the foot of Cerro Chalcatzingo, the large Cantera phase ceremonial platform on Terrace 1 marks the point of transition between the less accessible mythical space defined by the hillside monuments and the public space of the lower habitational terraces.

Though it was long ago looted from the site, Monument 9 is thought to have originally been set on the ceremonial platform. The monument is a large stone slab carved with an image of the earth-monster with out-turned cleft eyebrows, crossed bars in its eyes, and a quatrefoil mouth sprouting vegetation from its inset corners. Most remarkably, the center of the mouth is pierced by a large cruciform hole. Wear on the lower edge of the opening suggests that people or objects may have crawled or been passed through it. Such use would have constituted a powerful symbol of passage to or from the supernatural world. (159)

 

 

 

 

 

North America

 
Prehistoric figures pecked on sandstone, from Vernal, Utah (above). There were two types of headgear involved. One was a feather headdress that looked like the prototype of later Plains Indians' feathered war headdresses. (120)

The other looked like horns. Horns on a helmet of some kind. The feather bonnet I'd seen on the very last page of Heras' Studies in Proto-Indo-Mediterranean Culture: "People of the Sea" from Thebes at the time of Rameses III. Heras quotes Jarde's La Formation du Peuple Grec. These sea-people are the “undoubted ancestors of the classical people of Greece and Asia Minor.” They had to be the ancestors of the so-called "classical peoples," because it was the history of the Sea People which became the myths of the Greeks and Egyptians and later the Romans. (120)


Feathered headdress from Phaistos disk (left) and head of "Philistine," 1200 BC. (120)

Assyrians with "People of the Sea," 700 BC. (120)

It seemed, at any rate, that the Hopi were descended from the Philistines/Carians/Lycians. But what was the connection with the horned-helmet people? I had to go to Egypt for that. Some time in the thirteenth to the twelfth century BC. There, in a relief, is pictured a battle between the feather-headdress people and the horned-helmet people: relief from Medinet Habu, 1200 BC (above). The horned-helmet people are Shardinians, who are another subtribe of the People of the Sea, also from "Asia Minor."

…I wasn't surprised to find the sea peoples, Carians, Shardinians, Philistines linked in Egypt. I'd already seen them linked in the New World, and I'd already seen their characteristic geometric (triangles/spirals) pottery in Lower Egypt, fronting the Mediterranean: predynastic (Gerzean) pots from Egypt (above). (120)

I had two other clues besides headdresses: the spiral/maze and the use of triangles, rightside up and upside down, as a kind of "fretwork" pattern. If there was anything basic to Southwest pottery, it was these two motifs. Take any sampling of old prehistoric Southwest bowls, and you could see the two motifs used over and over again in an almost infinite variety of patterns: Prehistoric bowls from eastern Arizona (above). (120)

Hall pictures a little "pyxis" (box) from Ur that dates back to at least 3000 BC as an object that neatly combines both the triangle and spiral motifs (above). (120)

Other

Helmeted heads from southern Sumatra (left) and Mexico (Olmec). (120)

…simple pottery representations of the human figure have been found in strata dating back more than 12,000 years. These earliest figures, and all the later examples, are known in Japan by the generic term dogu. The best-known dogu date from around 3000 years ago and are better described as ‘anthropoid’ than human - since it is by no means certain that the figures they represent are human beings. They have hands and feet, legs and arms and a head, like human beings, but their features are weirdly distorted almost as though they are concealed behind some kind of face-mask or helmet. The eyes of these figures are most disconcerting, being depicted as large ovals each with a single horizontal slit. Other dogu are very different, some seeming to freeze a tortured human face in the act of screaming, some imposing the features of an animal - a cat for example - on to an otherwise human form, some creating the appearance of mythological beings with the body unnaturally elongated or the face lozenge-shaped. (124)