The objectives of this exercise are to learn to recognize, characterize, and interpret the Olmec style. Through the exercise you should develop the ability to:
1. Recognize the Olmec style, to distinguish it from other Mesoamerican styles, and to describe the elements that constitute the style. For example, the style is recognizable by its smooth, rounded representations; it is unlike the Zapotec style which is much more ornate. 2. Recognize possible meanings of some of themes embodied in the style (e.g., were-jaguar, paw-wing). 3. Make inferences about possible or likely uses and associations of the objects from information about the style, performance characteristics, and contexts of the objects. For example, what were the likely uses and associations of the colossal heads, given that they were (a) expensive to construct, (b) potentially easy to see, yet (c) mutilated?
In “Introduction to Olmec Style exercise,” you have seen slides of several objects in the Olmec style. These are repeated in “Introduction to Olmec Style Exercise.” Next, you will see more slides that represent a mix of the Olmec and other styles (e.g., Zapotec). [All of these slides are reproduced here in case you are more comfortable printing them out.] Make notes on what you see and what is said about the objects. If they are Olmec, what makes them Olmec? As you go along, try to think about what characterizes the Olmec style. Prepare to present your characterization of the style in Part B.
Stylistic attributes – what makes it Olmec or not Olmec?
Context if known
1. Colossal head
Smooth, rounded representation and is low-relief carved. Youthful, not smiling human face. Wearing a headdress. Absence of pupils in the eye and prominent eyelids. Very large and difficult to move
Low-relief carving. The top of the altar features a carving with a non-human like face, representing the cosmos above. The human like sculpture...
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