Head Fake

Location: La Venta, Tabasco, Mexico.

The heads were originally produced and featured at the Olmec site of La Venta.  We made the journey to see the ancient city that produced them. They were quarried form massive chunks of basalt many miles away from the city. We can only guess as to how they transported them. When I first got to the site, I have to admit that I am so used to seeing the wonderful stone structures of the Maya sites that I was a bit disappointed that the Olmecs did not build with rock. Here they only built only earthen structures and furthermore most of the stone heads have been removed.  But the archaeologists thoughtfully placed some excellent copies of the stone heads where they used to be.  As I thought about it, it reminded me of seeing the Gettysburg battlefield many years ago, where you could see the geographical features, some earthworks, and replica canons where the batteries used to be. It does give one a sense of place, and frankly the heads are much more accessible at Villahermosa.

The day was hot and the climb to the top of the pyramid mound was steep. One of our group members collapsed with a heat stroke. A warning to us all, stay hydrated and do not over-exert. 

Then we went as a group to to La Venta Park in Villahermosa. Here the group archaeologist gave us more details, but I was glad that I was able to see them at my own pace yesterday, when I could take my photos without a group of people jockeying for photo positions or taking selfies, and when I could take my own pace and sit quietly with the stones. 

In retrospect, I may have become a victim of my own methodology. I like shooting archaeology without people to give it a sense of timelessness, but without people the giant stone heads have no sense of scale. You can not tell if they are one foot tall or fifteen feet tall. Luckily a coatimundi was using one of the heads as a playground. Perhaps if I go back, I will hire a Maya lady to stand next to all the heads to them to give a sense of proportion, or (the horror, the horror) take a selfie of myself with the heads.