Expert opinion
Architecture and Sculptural Style in La Venta
In the first millennium before the Common Era  (1200-400 BC), La Venta, located in Huimanguillo, Tabasco, was a first-class city in ancient Mexico. It is characterized by its monumental sculptures, its planned urban layout and its magnificent jade offerings.

Situated on a natural elevation of around 65 feet in height, the ancient Olmec city covered an area of at least 500 acres. It was surrounded by lowlands which still flood every year, as well as streams, rivers and lagoons of fresh and salt water. The sea is found 10 miles to the north. Small settlements were scattered on the banks of the rivers dedicated to farming, fishing and hunting. They also gathered diverse natural land and water-based resources which supplied the main settlement. The rivers were not only an important source of nutrition, but also served as primary communication channels. The city’s architecture is made mainly from earth, that is, a mix of compact clay and sand. Stone was seldom used, as it had to be imported from sites located from 30 to 60 miles away.

The site’s settlers built a pyramidal base of 100 feet in height—the largest at the time in 400 BC—and platforms which exceeded 1000 feet in length in some cases. These buildings were constructed creating lines with a north-south axis of more than 1,100 yards in length.

Monumental stone sculpture was an important part of the architecture. The Olmec altars—rectangular prisms with a seated human figure emerging from a central niche—were built in pairs and were linked to pyramidal structures. By contrast, at the northern and southern ends of the city, trios of monumental structures were located (among them, three colossal heads); they probably denoted the main entrances. At the base of the main building, six tombstones engraved in low relief were discovered, which show the connection between historical events and supernatural beings.

In the small ceremonial enclosure, to the north of the main pyramidal base, 50 offerings were found, many of which were jade objects, as well as five massive offerings. The latter comprised tonnes of blocks of serpentine—imported from Oaxaca—in cavities measuring 50 by 63 feet and 23 feet deep, located under certain structures or in the small squares or courtyards. Groups of votive chisels made from jade or serpentine were placed in the clay and sand inflll which covered these blocks.

The famous Offering 4, with its 16 figurines and six chisels made of serpentine and jade, was located inside Massive Offering 3.

Finally, figurines, ear spools, bead necklaces, burins and small canoes, among other artifacts, were some of the wide variety of funerary objects.
Under translation
Under translation


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