By Karl A. Taube
Olmec artwork at Dumbarton Oaks offers the Olmec element of the Robert Woods Bliss selection of Pre-Columbian artwork. It illustrates all thirty-nine Olmec paintings items in colour plates and comprises many complementary and comparative black-and-white illustrations and drawings. The physique of Pre-Columbian artwork that Robert Bliss rigorously assembled over a half-century among 1912 and 1963, amplified purely a bit given that his loss of life, is a remarkably major assortment. as well as their aesthetic caliber and creative value, the gadgets carry a lot information about the social worlds and non secular and symbolic perspectives of the folks who made and used them ahead of the coming of Europeans within the New global.
This quantity is the second one in a sequence of catalogues that would deal with gadgets within the Bliss Pre-Columbian assortment. the vast majority of the Olmec gadgets within the assortment are made up of jade, the main helpful fabric for the peoples of old Mesoamerica from early occasions during the 16th century. quite a few goods similar to mask, statuettes, jewellery, and replicas of guns and instruments have been used for ceremonial reasons and served as choices.
Karl Taube brings his services at the lifeways and ideology of old Mesoamerican peoples to his learn of the Olmec gadgets in teh Bliss assortment. His figuring out of jade covers a huge variety of data from chemical compositions to geological resources to craft expertise to the symbolic strength of the golf green stone. in the course of the ebook the writer emphasizes the function of jade as a strong image of water, fertility, and especially, of the maize plant which was once the elemental resource of existence and sustenance for the Olmec. The glossy eco-friendly of the stone used to be analogous to the fairway development of maize. This basic proposal used to be elaborated in particular spiritual ideals, a lot of which have been persevered and elaborated by means of later Mesoamerican peoples, reminiscent of the Maya. Karl Taube employs his huge wisdom of Pre-Columbian cultures to discover and explicate Olmec symbolism during this catalogue.
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Extra resources for Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks
According to Harlow (1993), the Motagua Valley of eastern Guatemala is the only region in Mesoamerica possessing the proper mineralogical and fault conditions for jadeite. At present, it is the only documented source of jadeite in Mesoamerica (Foshag and Leslie 1955). It is noteworthy, however, that jade currently mined from this region is neither the translucent blue jade of the Olmec nor the bright apple-green jade favored by the Classic Maya. Neutron activation studies suggest that there are at least two distinct Mesoamerican sources of jadeite (Bishop, Sayre, and Van Zelst 1985; Bishop and Lange 1993).
Many serpentines are light green, other examples can be very dark to black (see Pls. 6, 7, 14). Although far less rare than jadeite, serpentine was an esteemed material among the Olmec and overlapped with jade in both symbolic meaning and function. As I have mentioned, both jadeite and serpentine were considered wealth items related to the symbolism of maize and agricultural abundance. Moreover, like jadeite, serpentine was frequently carved into celts and other objects, including statuettes and jewelry; the artistic attention and skill frequently lavished on these objects indicate the esteem in which this material was held.
11; Taube 1996). The Olmec Maize God commonly appears on greenstone celts as well as celtiform stelae from La Venta. In addition, he is frequently surrounded by directional celts, and appears to be a personified form of the World Tree as growing maize (Fig. ; Taube 1996). Like the Olmec Rain God, the corn deity also has distinctive facial features, with almond-shaped eyes that usually slant upward at the outer corners and a prominent pair of upper incisors. These same facial traits are also found among the Classic corn deities of the Maya, the Zapotec, and peoples of the Gulf Coast (Fig.