Step into the mystical world of the Olmec civilization with the recent uncovering of two extraordinary reliefs in Tenosique, Tabasco. These circular stone sculptures, weighing a staggering 1,543 pounds (700 kilograms) each, showcase local rulers engaging in ritual contortion. Believed to date back to 900 B.C. to 400 B.C., these remarkable pieces offer a glimpse into the intriguing practices and beliefs of the Olmec people.
The Olmec, known as the "rubber people," were the earliest Mesoamerican civilization, renowned for their monumental sculptures and colossal heads. However, these newfound reliefs add a captivating layer to their cultural legacy. The figures depicted in the sculptures feature crossed arms and, most notably, "grumpy mouth[s]" with an uncanny resemblance to the roar of a jaguar.
Experts from the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) Tabasco Center suggest that the contortionist portraits symbolize influential leaders within the Olmec community. The mouth positioning, referred to as "ajaw," may have influenced later Maya ajaw altars, emphasizing the importance of this Olmec tradition.
These enigmatic sculptures share striking similarities with five other contortionist reliefs found across the region. Archaeologists believe that the practice of contortion, which induced a trance-like state by restricting blood flow to the brain, bestowed special powers upon these rulers.
Discoveries like these remind us of the rich cultural heritage of Mexico and its profound influence on Mesoamerican civilizations. The newfound reliefs will find their home in the esteemed Pomoná Site Museum in Tenosique, joining other remarkable artifacts. Stay tuned for further updates on this fascinating archaeological journey into the world of the Olmec contortionists.
Heritage Daily: "Twin 'grumpy mouth' reliefs of Olmec contortionists discovered in Mexico"
Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico (INAH)