The Ancient Olmec Were So Big-Headed

By | June 5, 2019

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Olmec art, Colossal stone head of a warrior. Source: (Photo by De Agostini via Getty Images/De Agostini via Getty Images)

Easter Island and Mount Rushmore don’t have monopolies on giant, carved stone heads. The ancient Olmec people of Mexico were carving enormous, eight-ton heads long before the Rapa Nui of Easter Island and Gutzon Borglum of Mount Rushmore ever lifted a chisel. Archaeologists are still baffled by the giant Olmec heads. Here’s what they know so far. 

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The Olmec flourished in south-central Mexico. Source: (

Who were the Olmec People?

Mesoamerica’s earliest known significant culture, the Olmec people lived in central Mexico in the area that is now Tabasco and Veracruz from about 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Archaeologists and researchers know a lot more about the later Mesoamerican civilizations, like the Aztec and Mayans, than they do the Olmec, but they believe that many of the common rituals, belief systems, and practices used by the Aztec and the Mayans were taken from the Olmecs. These include blood rituals, the Mesoamerican ball game, calendar, and stone carving. The Olmec stone carving, however, was unique.